I first met Buzz Williams at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. Buzz was our manager and I was an assistant coach. Buzz had an incredible work ethic and desire to learn all he could about the coaching profession.
However, when he forgot to remove the gas hose from the vans we travelled in after road games on two consecutive road trips, causing a major gas spill, endangering several peoples lives, as well as closing the gas station down for several days, not just once, but on two consecutive road trips, we were concerned. Buzz not only learned how to return the gas hose to the tank after every fill up, he exceeded everyones expectations in not only how fast he climbed the coaching ladder but how effective he became as a college basketball coach.
After graduating from Navarro, Buzz enrolled at Oklahoma City College in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. At this time, OCU was a power in NAIA, winning several national championships as well as dominating recruiting Division I transfers and Junior College transfers. Like Navarro, OCU had only one full time assistant, so Buzz gained valuable knowledge in every aspect of college coaching. A manager, at these levels really means you’re the second assistant, responsible for every aspect of coaching at the college level.
After graduating from Oklahoma City, Buzz became the third assistant at the University of Texas at Arlington. Buzz hounded Eddie McCarter for the opportunity, and Eddie finally relented. UTA had to merge the third assistant with the Director of Basketball Operations and the Video Coordinator position all into one, and Buzz did all three simultaneously.
Buzz went from UTA to the top assistant at Texas A&M-Kingsville, where he picked up even more recruiting experience and meeting his wife Corey in the process. Buzz went from Texas A&M Kingsville to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana armed with a solid reputation of being a great recruiter in Texas Junior College and High School. With this reputation and some help from coaching colleagues Buzz was hired by Dale Layer at Colorado State University. At CSU Buzz began to develop a reputation nationally by keeping CSU in constant pursuit of some of the nations top talent, especially in Texas. Buzz’s dream came true when he was hired by Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M, becoming an assistant coach in the Big XII. At Texas A&M Buzz helped Gillispie land some of Texas’ best players and to take a team that didn’t win a single game in the Big XII the years before to the NCAA tournament. With Billy Gillispie, Buzz was reunited with a hard-nosed coaching style that he believed in and already exhibited in his recruiting style.
What better place for a grinder to start his head coaching career than at the “Katrina Stricken” University of New Orleans. Buzz became the head coach only 7 months after Katrina. Many players were academically ineligible when he arrived because of the transfer from UNO to UT-Tyler and then back again, all in the same spring semester. Buzz hit the ground running, recruiting two players from Texas Junior College that filled out his starting lineup. What Buzz did best at UNO was to demand perfection from the best player in the conference. Buzz grinded Bo McCalleb like no other player I had ever seen before, every day Buzz demanded Bo”s best, never relenting, never giving him an inch. The tenacity for demanding a player to do their best every day set the tone for all the success Buzz would have from that day forward. Buzz left UNO, to become an assistant on Tom Crean’s staff at Marquette for one season. Immediately after being named Head Coach at MU, Buzz went right after the big three (Wesley Matthews, Dominic James, and Jerel McNeal) the same way he did Bo McCalleb. Always pushing, proding, and demanding their best every day. Buzz always went after the best players, forcing them to set the tone and pace for the rest of the team. Lazar Haywood, Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Jae Crowder, all NBA players that were never top 100 high school players. Buzz forced them to lay it all on the line and it made them the professionals they are today. I remember reading a magazine article one time that read: “With Buzz Williams you have to Practice” practice, hell, you better not miss your turn in line, every drill, every day is a much better synopsis of a Buzz Williams practice.
On Buzz’s first day on the job at Marquette, the first program he wanted implemented was Buzz’s Bunch, not recruiting slogans or public relations campaigns, but he wanted to give back to the less fortunate. Buzz started this program on his own initiative and it grew. Buzz’s Bunch started with 25 kids appearing before two regular season games and grew into several games, hundreds of kids, and a summer program that has included thousands of children from not only Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but across the nation.
Wisdom is another huge pursuit of Buzz Williams, at every practice and every film session, and almost every daily activity Buzz seeks out wisdom, from many books, from speakers, and personal relationships that help him, his staff, and his players gain more wisdom. Many speakers were not professionally successful at all, they were just good husbands and fathers, there to help inspire the program. The greatest of all would have to be from my own experience, my Mom died on Jan 1, 2014 in Owensboro, Kentucky. We held the ceremony in a small catholic church that she attended. As I watched my Mom being brought in I saw Buzz in the back of the church, having just played in Las Vegas the night before, when we filed out of the church he was gone, back to work back to the Grind.
– Scott Monarch
Former Assistant Coach for Buzz at Marquette & UNO, currently Head Coach at Grayson College