GREENVILLE, S.C. (Furman SID) — Joe Williams, the most successful basketball coach in Furman University history, passed away today at his home in Enterprise, Miss. He was 88 years old.
Williams coached Furman for eight years (1971-78) and directed the Paladins to five Southern Conference Tournament championships and NCAA Tournament berths. His Furman teams also claimed three conference regular season titles.
A 1996 inductee into Furman’s Athletics Hall of Fame, Williams compiled a 142-87 coaching record in his eight seasons with the Paladins. His 1973-74 team, which featured SoCon Player of the Year and All-America forward Clyde Mayes, went 12-0 in SoCon regular season play and 22-9 overall, claimed both league regular season and tournament titles, and defeated South Carolina, 75-67, in NCAA Tournament play in Philadelphia, Pa.
Williams came to Furman from Jacksonville University after leading the Dolphins to the 1970 NCAA national championship game, where the Dolphins dropped a 80-69 decision to a UCLA team coached by legendary Bruins coach John Wooden.
Williams departed Furman following the 1977-78 season for Florida State, coaching the Seminoles for eight seasons (1979-86).
He compiled a carer head coaching record of 336-231 over 20 seasons, six of which were 20-win campaigns.
“Furman University mourns the passing of Joe Williams,” said director of athletics Jason Donnelly. “Joe was an iconic coach for Furman basketball and Greenville, S.C., who coached some of the greatest players and most successful teams in the Paladin athletics history. His accomplishments are legendary among Furman fans, and his successful legacy will always be remembered. We extend our thoughts and prayers to Joe’s family during this difficult time.”
Long-time friend and retired Furman professor of history, Dr. John M. Block, who covered the Williams era as a member of the Paladin radio broadcast team, said:
“Joe Williams was at Furman for eight years and five of his teams won the Southern Conference Tournament. He left behind his best team in 1978, a squad that included Jonathan Moore and went on to win the tournament again in 1980.
“Joe was very influential in integrating Furman, not because it was the easy thing to do but because it was the right thing to do. He had such a positive influence on so many people with whom he worked, from players, to coaches, and staff.
“I was fortunate enough to be with him his entire time at Furman and credit him for so much of what I learned to do well.”
Williams is survived by his wife, Wendy, and their two sons, Blake and Braxton. He also has two sons, Joe, Jr. and Patrick, from his first marriage.
Services for Williams will held in Cocoa Beach, Fla., on a date to be announced.