When asked recently, “Who moves around more?” local groups of nomads and gypsies both answered-----college basketball coaches.
“They never stay put!” said Shifty Johnson, well-known vagabond.
Every college basketball coach should know a travel agent and a realtor and have kids that believe in “new adventures”.
(This is just an observation, not a condemnation. My dad worked for the government. We moved every two years when I was a kid and I actually liked it.)
Every spring, there is a domino effect of firings and hirings and programs “going in a different direction” that creates an annual greener pasture for coaches.
Former University of South Dakota women’s’ basketball coach Ryun Williams and new USD women’s’ coach Amy Williams live on this shifting landscape.
Ryun Williams spent the last four years in Vermillion, taking the USD program through the wasteland of Division One transition to the promised land of full Division One status. Then he found a job that would pay him more and let him live and work in a beautiful city in Colorado. You would take it, too.
Amy Williams spent the last five years at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma, where she started an NAIA program from scratch. Her team won 22 games last year and made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the national tournament. Then she found a job that would pay her more to move back to her home state and give her the opportunity to take over for the first time as a head coach at a Division One program.
She has two young children and a husband, Lloyd, who coached the men’s team at Rogers State for two years and was a high school coach in Muskogee, Oklahoma, this past school year.
But when the Coyotes came calling (after she called them first)… it was time to make a move.
“I always said it was going to take something very special to pull us away from that situation,” says Williams, “But this is that special for us. It’s a unique and awesome opportunity we could not turn away from.”
I did not talk to Ryun Williams upon his departure, but I’m sure he would have echoed his alter-Williams thoughts almost word for word.
For Amy Williams, she comes back to South Dakota after 12 years coaching in Oklahoma and Texas. She went to high school in Spearfish where her father, Tim Gusso, was the Spartans boys’ basketball coach. And when the possibility was presented to get his grandkids considerably closer, Gusso nudged his daughter toward Vermillion.
“You don’t ever want to tell them what to do, but you try to make some suggestions, and I think for her career it’s obviously a great step,” Gusso says.
The step also gets Williams a lot closer to her little sister, Emilee Thiesse, who just happens to be an assistant coach for the women’s team at USD rival South Dakota State University.
“I have the utmost respect for her as a coach and recruiter,” says Williams, “and I know there will be some head to head battles. We’re both mature enough to compete and walk away and love each other and I’m excited to be closer to her and get to see her more often and we look forward to the healthy competition.”
She delivered that last line with a wink. Williams also smiled a lot and brought the enthusiasm and humor you want from a new coach at an introductory press conference.
The phrases “hard work” and “work ethic” were thrown about quite a bit and Williams apparently convinced her new boss and her new players that she is gritty and willing to grind it out to keep moving the Coyotes ahead.
“Our team, we have to be tough” says Coyote point guard Alexis Yackley, “and that’s what we’ve always been because we’re not the tallest or the quickest or the most athletic. But you can be the toughest and work harder than your opponent and that’s what our new coach really exudes and that’s what she will bring to our program.”
USD Athletic Director David Sayler says that during the interview “her work ethic stood out right away. And then she got up at the chalkboard and started drawing up some offensive sets that were pretty cool and I think a great fit for the kinds of kids we have in our program… where they make the right decision and then the right play becomes available. I think she’s going to be a great fit for our kids and I felt that way real quickly.”
“She, as a player, always had to overachieve and work really hard,” adds her father, Tim. “So she knows all about hard work and that’s one of the things that is going to make her really successful at this level.”