During his 13 years of coaching, Don Williams repeatedly told his players that, “good things happen to good people.” On Monday, Nov. 27 he found that to be true when Beaver Dam Elementary named its basketball court in his honor.
Since he began playing basketball for Beaver Dam High School as a freshman in 1961, Williams has always been involved in some way with basketball, mostly in Beaver Dam.
After graduating from high school, Williams went to the University of Tennessee at Martin on a basketball scholarship. After college, he returned to Ohio County where taught and coached for 13 years before a former mentor, Mossy Martin, encouraged him to apply for the principal’s job at Beaver Dam Elementary in 1982.
When he started his position at the school, one of the duties of the principal was to be the coordinator of junior pro basketball, and later he and Cecil Goff helped start the countywide program as it exists now. Williams spent every Saturday during the season at the school’s gym and even served as the referee for years. Williams served as the principal of the school for 22 years and later assistant principal for six years — all of which he served as the coordinator for the basketball program. A role he has kept even after retirement in 2010. The reason he has stayed involved for over 30 years is simple, he said.
“I am a person who likes to see all kids involved,” he said. “If they are in the third, fourth, fifth or sixth grade and they want to play on a team, we find them a team. If they want to cheerlead for a team, we find them a team. It is important for anyone who wants to participate be able to.”
Basketball has always been an important part of Williams’ life, and it is because of that importance that Williams continues his work with junior pro.
Despite all of his time spent working with Junior Pro and at Beaver Dam Elementary School, Williams was completely shocked and surprised by the gesture to name the court after him. He never considered himself to be worthy of the honor.
“I was thinking a few months prior that with Mossy Martin and all he has done for the school that we should name our court Mossy Martin Court, but I didn’t tell anybody,” Williams said.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, Williams was at Rice’s Drugs, his after-retirement part-time job, when his boss told him they were going to a pep rally at the elementary school.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to a pep rally. I have work to do here,’” he said.
His boss was insistent and finally persuaded him to go, but Williams said he was driving his own vehicle because he didn’t plan on staying long. Williams was clueless that the rally was for him, even when he saw Ohio County Central Office staff, school board members and family at the event.
The floor with his name on it had been covered with paper, and when Jason Tierney, the announcer for the high school basketball games who spoke at the event, began talking about Williams’ career, he thought they were going to unveil some type of banner to hang in his honor.
“I was very shocked,” Williams said. “I don’t know how they kept it from me really.”
Keeping the surprise was the difficult part according to Jason Bullock, the school’s family resource coordinator, and school principal, Ginger Tichenor, who happens to be Williams’ daughter.
“A lot of lies and deceiving took place,” Bullock said as to how they managed to keep the surprise undercover.
Bullock is the one who spearheaded the effort to name the floor in Williams’ honor.
“I’ve been here for 12 years and when you think of Beaver Dam Elementary, who do you think of? You think of Don Williams,” Bullock said. “He has done so much for this school.”
Williams is synonymous with Beaver Dam junior pro basketball and Beaver Dam Elementary itself, Bullock said.
“If you come to a junior pro game and you walk in and look over in the back left corner there will be a chair there and there will be Mr. Williams sitting there to keep an eye on things,” Bullock said.
Tichenor had been dishonest with her father about when the gym’s floor was going to be refinished. She knew he would want to come by to check on it while it was being completed and they didn’t want him to stop by and see his name on the floor. Williams’ was told it was being done Christmas break when it was actually completed over Thanksgiving break.
“It was over the holiday and there was no reason for him to be here since we didn’t have any games and he thought the floor wasn’t being refinished. So, as soon as the holiday was over that next Monday (the secret was revealed),” she said.
There was even more deception when it came to obtaining Williams’ signature for the floor. Bullock was at school one day when Williams held a junior pro basketball meeting. Williams asked Bullock if he could make copies of some papers that happened to include his signature. Bullock saw that as the perfect opportunity and made two copies of the papers — one for Williams and one for himself.
While Beaver Dam and his work with basketball has provided Williams with a lifetime of lasting memories and friends, he never thought that he would be honored in such a way.
“It was a proud moment that I never expected … A humbling honor,” Williams said.
—Dana Brantley, MyKYNews