Jon Teitel's "Coaching Greats": UCSB's Bob Williams

August 7th, 2012
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" series CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with current UCSB head coach Bob Williams, the lone coach in this series to represent two schools in the same conference. Williams led UC Davis as a Division II school, building the program up to the point where he won a national title in 1998. From there Williams moved on to UCSB, where he's led the Gauchos to three NCAA tournament appearances and five Big West titles.

Jon Teitel: You became coach at UC Davis in 1990 despite being in the only league in all of Division II at the time that did not give out scholarships. How were you able to be so competitive against other teams who did have scholarships? 

Bob Williams: We struggled with some of the elite non-conference teams at the time, but we did okay and had a bunch of great kids with a good work ethic, so the cream rose to the top.

JT: In 1998 you went 31-2 as head coach en route to winning the Division II title and being named Division II Coach of the Year. What did it mean to you to win the title, and what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? 

BW: It was a great honor to be Coach of the Year, but it meant a hell of a lot more to win the title!  To be the only non-scholarship team to ever win the title was a Hoosiers-like moment as well as the culmination of eight years of growth and hard work.

JT: After that season you left Davis to become coach at UCSB. Why did you make the move? 

BW: I made the move in order to go to a Division I school, and as a California native I had long looked at the UCSB job as a great situation.  I had followed the Big West Conference and recruited against it in the past.  The scholarships were awful nice to have as well!

JT: What are your memories of the 2002 NCAA tournament (Jason Gardner scored 28 points to lead Arizona to the five-point victory)? 

BW: That was definitely our closest game.  We competed at a high level and had a free throw to cut it to two with 90 seconds left, but just could not get any closer than that.

JT: What are your memories of the 2010 NCAA tournament (Jon Diebler scored 23 points (7-12 3PT) in the Ohio State victory)? 

BW: We were overmatched a little bit but happy to be back in the tournament.  Our star Orlando Johnson played well, but Dallas Lauderdale (12 rebounds, eight blocked shots and two steals) was much better defensively than we anticipated.

JT: What are your memories of the 2011 NCAA tournament (Erving Walker scored 18 points to lead Florida past the Gauchos)? 

BW: They came out red-hot and we were never in it, especially after losing our starting center Jaime Serna with a broken wrist two minutes into the game.

JT: You recently passed Jerry Pimm for the most wins in school history. What did it mean to you to break the record, and do you think that anyone will ever break your own record? 

BW: I am sure someone will break it: records are made to be broken.  To have followed Coach Pimm and then won more games than him has been great, but he built this program and it was a much tougher road for him.

JT: Last March you had a three-point loss to Idaho in the Tournament. How will you be able to build on that for next year knowing that your top three scorers are graduating (Serna, Johnson and James Nunnally)? 

BW: We are losing a lot (including two of the best scorers in school history), but have put together back-to-back good recruiting classes.  We feel we have a chance to be competitive but our preseason schedule will test us greatly.

JT: You currently have the best W/L% of all active Big West coaches. What makes you such a good coach, and how long do you plan on sticking around for? 

BW: I do not know about either one to be honest.  I think you can only be a good coach when you have good players so we try to recruit very well.  I will coach as long as I am enjoying what I do.

JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most? 

BW: I think I want to be remembered for the quality of people we had here.

Williams is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Big West history.

Cal Poly: Jeff Schneider (1995-2001) 70-84, 1 conference title
Cal State Fullerton: Bob Burton (2003-present) 155-122, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title
Cal State Northridge: Bobby Braswell (1996-present) 237-241, 2 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
UC Riverside: John Masi (1979-2005) 462-269, 6-time conference COY
UC Davis: Bob Williams (1990-1998) 158-76, 4 conference titles, 1 D-2 title, 1-time national COY
Long Beach State: Jerry Tarkanian (1968-1973) 122-20, 4 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles
Pacific: Bob Thomason (1988-present) 392-296, 4 NCAA tourneys, 5 conference titles, 5-time conference COY
UC Irvine: Pat Douglass (1997-2010) 197-191, 2 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
UCSB: Bob Williams (1998-present) 237-181, 3 NCAA tourneys, 5 conference titles, 3-time conference COY (ALSO UC DAVIS)