William Chrisman coach Lindsay Thompson had a surprise visitor on her first day on the job in 2007.
When she opened the double doors to the gym, eager to lead her initial practice, a man was already sitting in a metal folding chair at half-court.
It was longtime Osage“>Fort Osage coach Dale Williams, Thompson’s high school coach and later her mentor.
Williams told his former assistant coach he simply wanted to make sure everything was going OK. He stayed for two weeks.
“When he left, I knew that I had graduated and that he approved,” Thompson said. “But I still looked forward to seeing him at games.”
A fixture of the girls basketball scene in Kansas City for more than three decades, Williams died Wednesday afternoon. He was 76. Williams had broken his hip shortly after the new year and his health deteriorated over the ensuing weeks.
In basketball terms, he leaves behind a head coaching career that included a 548-323 all-time record. He began his career at North Kansas City in 1975 before moving to Fort Osage in 1987. He retired following the 2006-07 season.
Prior to tonight’s home game against William Chrisman, Fort Osage will honor Williams with a moment of silence. Former players, coaches and fans will join the current team on the floor for a brief ceremony at 5:15 p.m. to honor a man who is a member of the hall of fame for the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association and Baker University.
“He was a student of the game — I can tell you that,” said current Fort Osage girls coach Dawn Williams, who served as an assistant under Dale Williams for 10 seasons. The two are not related. “Even in his last year, he would still go to coaches clinics. He still wanted to learn, and he was still tweaking all of his plays. He loved the game.”
It paid off. Williams was named the conference coach of the year 13 times in his career. He coached former WNBA Finals MVP Betty Lennox, who once joked that Williams had cut her prior to her freshman season.
That move was indicative of his coaching style — tough and stern — but his former players said he often displayed a softer side, as well.
“He would chew my butt every day at practice, but at the end of the day, I knew he loved me, and that was a big deal to me,” Thompson said. “It made getting chewed out a little bit easier, because I knew it came from love. I knew he was always there for me when I needed him.”
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. Follow him at twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.