Terry Williams builds up community through basketball

By Corban University

“I’ve always been a builder, simple as that,” says Terry Williams, his workman’s hands folded together in front of him.

Throughout his nearly 50-year career coaching basketball at virtually every age-group and level imaginable, Williams has built up program after program—practice by practice and shot by shot. In doing so, he has built more than winning cultures and championship teams. He has built up his community and the lives of the individuals within it.

This year’s winner of Corban University’s Outstanding Service Award has seen plenty of accolades printed in newspaper headlines, awarded at banquets, or hoisted into the rafters of gymnasiums. They all end up in the same place. The walls and the shelves in his home office are vacant. “They’re in a box in the garage, and I’m not even sure where that box is exactly,” he says. “But those aren’t me. You can’t win something on your own doing. Players win games, and I told my teams, ‘I am 0-0 for life. You win and lose these games, and you deserve the awards.’”

For Williams, the accolades he cherishes aren’t collected in some dusty cardboard box in the garage. They are scattered across the community, state, and country, making an impact through the game he loves. “When you have coaches that inspire you, teach you the game, you kind of get hooked by that, and I had some great ones,” he says. “It’s always a reward to see former players coaching. That’s the greatest tribute I could ever receive.”

Basketball is the medium Williams chose to build with. His journey at Corban began as a standout on the men’s basketball team, and his time on campus left its mark. “I fell in love with this school,” he says. “God changed my life here. I bleed Warrior blue.”

A few years after Williams graduated, the Warriors came calling. “Be careful what you say over a game of pinochle,” Williams laughs. He remembers venting his frustration over the struggles of Corban’s women’s basketball team to Corban alum, Harold Hawes, over their regular game of pinochle. Hawes was a close friend of Corban’s head men’s basketball coach at the time, Tim Hills. Shortly after Williams’ conversation with Hawes, Williams received an abrupt phone call. “Next thing I know, I get a call from Tim and he said, ‘If you think you can do something here, come and do it,’” Williams recalls.

When he first returned to Corban to coach the women’s basketball team, he inherited a squad that had won only two games the previous year. In his first year, his team won the NCCAA national championship. The following year, they won a then school record 24 games in one of the nation’s most difficult conferences.

In the 14 years Williams coached for the Warriors, they appeared in the post season 13 times, with seven NAIA national championship tournament appearances, and two NCCAA national championship titles. When he passed on the baton, it was as the winningest coach in program history.

In spite of all the accolades, both on and off the court, Williams never built his programs solely on the idea of winning basketball games. Instead, he prioritized the people within them. At Corban, he held devotions before every practice. When coaching in the public school system, these had to become optional, but his teams still experienced his heart for ministry. “I made no apologies for speaking out about my faith when I was in the public school system,” he says. “I prayed over my kids and teams. We held student-led Bible studies, and we gave them the opportunity to hear the gospel and play for something more than themselves.” It’s a philosophy he has extended to almost every level of play in the community.

“People always say, ‘You gotta learn to say no.’ But they haven’t been where I’ve been,” Williams says. “I do keep thinking, ‘Which year am I done?’ but somehow, something happens where I feel like God is calling me and I can help. I’m 71 now, and it gets harder, but you have to continually ask God for His will.”

In the past few years, Williams has gone where he is needed, bringing an uncommon wealth of experience to overlooked teams throughout the community, from South Salem’s eighth grade boys to Blanchet’s middle school girls’ team, to his current stint with the seventh graders of Crosshill Christian School.

In his spare time, he continues to mentor so many coaches throughout the region, meeting them with a constant refrain. “Be a builder,” he says. “Build each other up. Build on what you’ve done the day before, the practice before, the game before. That’s what I try to do. Because it’s God who first built the character in you, the knowledge, the skills, and you have to use them.”

Disclaimer: Articles featured on Oregon Report are the creation, responsibility and opinion of the authoring individual or organization which is featured at the top of every article.