This is so fun. As I mentioned in my last post, I am not much of a college basketball fan. I start watching in March when the tournament kicks off. That means that I am not particularly invested in any of the teams. But as I look into the stories of the players (and in this case the coaches) of the teams in the tournament, I am finding some great people to cheer for. This time, I want to bring your attention to Buzz Williams, head coach of the Marquette University Golden Eagles. Reading his story reminds me of why I started this blog in the first place. I love to read about people who love God and love sports and love opportunities to see how God can use sports to help people meet him or learn more about him. I went looking for someone, anyone to write about and came across these articles on Buzz Williams. I am encouraged by what I read – I hope you will be, too.
I knew of Williams – due to some of the controversies and quirkiness that has followed him. First there was dancing in West Virginia. It appears innocent enough, but West Virginia fans didn’t appreciate his dance after Marquette defeated the Mountaineers earlier this year. Then there was the press conference after Marquette defeated Murray State in the round of 32 where Coach Williams had a stream of consciousness monologue with a nursery rhyme, a baseball analogy and a lot of emotional gratitude for his wife and 4 kids and the sacrifices they make for him to live this life as a coach. But when you check out the video below – also part of the same press conference, you get to hear Williams heart for his team, and the ultimate importance is having an impact on the life of the kids in his program, showing that his teaching is much more then x’s and o’s and on the court game planning.
I also read a blog mentioned something else he said. He said to not get so focused on the journey that we forget the lessons we learn along the way. This is an important thing to consider. Life is full of adventure and while it is short compared to eternity, it is also a journey with many pieces and opportunities to learn along the way. Williams has had lots of opportunity to learn lessons from what life has sent him through.
Williams grew up in Texas, a child of divorce. That explains some of his emotionalism about his wife and kids as seen in this most recent press conference. You can read more about his life, and his priorities in this article from fox sports. The perpetually hoarse-voiced coach has worked his way up from a 21 year old $400-a-month assistant coach to a head coach at a Division 1 school. He is leading Marquette to become an elite program. They are in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row – the first time Marquette has ever done that. And while the coaching competition left in his bracket maintain very impressive resumes (4 national titles, 14 final fours and 1400 career wins) Marquette is seen to have a legitimate shot of coming out of their bracket, into the final four.
I picked Marquette to make some noise this year and reach the final four in my bracket. I did so without any reason, except that I heard one “expert” (though I can’t remember who it was) say he expected that they could come out of their region. But the more I look into Williams story, the more I like him and the way he operates. Check out this article, too from insidemilwaukee.com. Let me sum it up for you. Williams is finishing his first year as Marquette head coach. They have played Missouri tough, only to lose on what seemed like questionable officiating (There was even an NCAA rule change after this game altering the rule for who can take free throws for an injured teammate. There is sadness and disappointment all over the place. Coach Williams pulls the team together and ends the season with a prayer for the players, particularly and their future, whatever it may hold. He regularly prays for his players, too – before practices, before games, when injured, on birthdays, etc. His faith in God is the heartbeat for all he does as a coach, be is striving to improve on the basketball court or looking to enhance and influence the lives of his players away from the court. There is a lot to like about Buzz Williams and the ministry he has as head basketball coach at Marquette. And I, for one, am hoping for a deep run in the tournament if for no other reason then to give Williams lots of opportunity to honor God through his work.
Go Golden Eagles!!