High School Basketball

‘He left a great legacy’: Legendary Columbia basketball coach Carl Williams dies

Legendary basketball coach Carl Williams, center, won state titles at Booker T. Washington, AC Flora and Lower Richland high schools.
Legendary basketball coach Carl Williams, center, won state titles at Booker T. Washington, AC Flora and Lower Richland high schools. The State file photo

The Midlands lost a basketball coaching legend over the weekend.

Carl Williams, who won state championships at three Columbia area high schools, died Sunday. He was 80.

“It really hurts right now,” said Xavier McDaniel, who was a member of the 1981 A.C. Flora state championship team under Williams. “I’m really gonna miss him.”

Funeral services are planned for 11 a.m. Monday Brookland Baptist Church Northeast.

McDaniel last saw Williams on June 5 when former teammates and coaches went out to lunch together. Such gatherings happened often, including when Williams celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year.

McDaniel said he and Williams shared an up-and-down relationship throughout the years, but there might have not been anyone (outside of his parents) who had a bigger impact on him.

Williams was tough on McDaniel and even kicked him off the team at one point. McDaniel remembers Williams’ 8 a.m. practices inside a cold gym.

But there were also times of compassion. McDaniel remembers going to Williams’ classroom every day during lunch period so he could get help with his algebra. Williams was a math teacher and gave extra assistance to McDaniel and other members of the team.

McDaniel also said Williams helped pay for his bus ticket to get to Wichita State for college and gave him a winter coat to help in the cold Kansas winters.

“I am going to miss things he taught me. He said X, ‘Never forget where you come from.’ I grew up in the Edisto Court area. He always said there was more to this world than the section you grew up in and to do better for yourself. He was one of the first people that told me I had the opportunity to be special,” McDaniel said. “Friends have big influence but his influence on me was bigger. ... He was the father figure and saw things my dad couldn’t see.”

Williams was a coach during one of the golden eras in Columbia high school hoops during the 1970s, ’80s and’ 90s along with the likes of Eau Claire’s George Glymph and Keenan’s Ben Trapp, among others.

Williams won four state championships and is the only basketball coach in South Carolina high school history to win state titles at three schools. He led Booker T. Washington to the Class 4A title in 1970 before leading A.C. Flora to a pair of Class 3A championships in 1981 and 1985. His final title came at Lower Richland in 1999.

Williams’ 1981 A.C. Flora team featured McDaniel and Tyrone Corbin, who both went on to long careers in the NBA.

“He has left a great legacy and helped a lot of guys out, not just me,” McDaniel said. “Coach Williams is one of the legendary coaches in this town. I don’t think he gets credit sometimes for what he did.”

Corbin said Williams was tough to play for but wanted the best for his players both on and off the court.

“He held you accountable for not only the basketball stuff, but for being a good person on campus and being a good student in class. If you made any slip ups in any area, he made you pay for it on the basketball court,” Corbin told the Columbia Star in 2012. “He always let you know that he cared about you as a person more than just a basketball player, and he held you accountable on both sides.”

Williams’ coaching career began in the pre-integration era and he finished with 503 victories. He was inducted into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the S.C. Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015.

Williams and other coaching legends were honored at Carey Rich’s first MLK Bash event in 2016, and he attended last year’s event as well. High school coaches from the Midlands and USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin posted memories of the impact that Williams had on their lives.

“One of the finest men to ever walk the face of the earth. I am lucky that my life was touched by coach Williams,” Martin posted on Twitter.

JoJo English, who played at Lower Richland and now coaches at Richland Northeast, was coached by Williams and Glymph, in AAU basketball. English said Williams had a quiet demeanor and commanded respect.

“Spoke to him at SC team camp in June always smiling & encouraging. Very sad day for all of us players & coaches,” English tweeted.