/Richard Williams is back in coaching biz, takes job as special assistant to USM’s Ladner

Richard Williams is back in coaching biz, takes job as special assistant to USM’s Ladner

Williams accepted the position of special assistant to Southern Miss’ head coach. He will be working for Jay Ladner who considers Williams a mentor. Ladner confirmed that Williams had been hired Tuesday morning. “Coach Williams is one of the most tactical basketball minds in Mississippi and anywhere else. I couldn’t be happier for our program. Basketball is Coach’s passion and he still has much to offer. We have just gotten better.” Ladner stated that coach’s duties would be multifaceted. He will be a valuable asset to the team. He will be a great help from a tactical perspective, but he can also help with game planning for our opponents.” Williams will apparently not receive any state compensation for his new job. This was a position he declined a year ago, as he had already committed to another year of color analysis on the Mississippi State basketball radio station. Williams has excelled in this capacity over the past six years. Ladner said, “The timing wasn’t right last season.” It was this year. Williams stated that he enjoyed radio work and his love for Mississippi State University. I have great respect for Neil Price (State radio’s play-by-play broadcaster), and have enjoyed learning from him. However, I miss being part of a team. Coaching is something I miss. Jay is a great coach and I look forward to working again with him. Jay has asked me to do what he wants.” Williams stated that he has already observed three Southern Miss practices. He said, “Jay has a lot new players.” “What impressed me most was the attention these guys paid to their coaches and how hard they worked. As a coach, it was a lot of fun to see that.” Williams stated that he will begin his new job Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. I can’t wait. Williams and Ladner go back a long way. Ladner, a young pharmacist salesman and recent USM premed graduate, was unhappy at work in 1992. He wanted to coach basketball. Jay Larry Ladner was Jay’s father and a former basketball coach. Jay wanted Jay to continue his coaching career. Williams was his coach and he offered to help. Ladner, an older man, set up a meeting with Williams and made it clear what his intention was. Williams was asked by his father to stop coaching. Williams said, “After an hour listening to Jay, i called my daddy back. I said to him, “Coach, I have news for you. You boys are going to coach basketball. He won’t be pushed aside. It’s all that’s needed. Soon after, Ladner was hired to be the head basketball coach at Saint Stanislaus College in Bay Saint Louis. After leaving Mississippi State in 1998, Williams and his wife moved from Mississippi to Bay Saint Louis, where Williams started to attend Ladner’s practices and games. He was soon a volunteer coach and was on the bench. Ladner said, “I learned so many basketball from Coach.” He’s an excellent coach, and I think he’s the best at the tactical side of basketball. Williams started his coaching career in Natchez as a volunteer coach for a seventh-grade basketball team. He also taught math. From junior high to highschool, to junior college assistant coach to college head coach to leading the Mississippi State Bulldogs into the 1996 Final Four, he went on to become a college coach. Williams assumed control of a struggling State team that had been ranked 3-15 in SEC and finished 8-22 overall. Four years later, State won 20 more games, was 13-5 in SEC, and won the Western Division. Six years later, State defeated No. 1 ranked Kentucky reached the finals of SEC Tournament. State then defeated both UConn, Cincinnati and the way to the Final Four. Williams, who left State in 2002, has been a coach in professional basketball leagues at Pearl High School, as well as being an assistant coach at Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech. As Ladner moved from Saint Stanislaus to Oak Grove to Jones Junior College to Southeastern Louisiana, and now USM, Williams and Ladner remained close. He gave much of the credit to Williams when Ladner’s Jones team won in the 2014 national junior college championship. Ladner, for his part, dedicated the championship to his mentors Williams, Williams, and M.K. Ladner was a Southern Miss player for Turk. Williams stated that Ladner was hired by Southern Miss in April 2019. “I’ll tell ya what I know about it.” Jay was desperate for the job. I know Jay is a great coach and Southern Miss couldn’t have hired someone who would be as passionate about the job as he. It’s his school, and it’s his dream job. It’s exactly the same for Jay as it was for him at State. Jay is not going to outwork anybody, and he doesn’t want to go anywhere else.” Now the obvious question: Why would Williams, 74, decide to return to college coaching? College coaching has become more of a young man’s sport. It’s safe to assume that Williams and his wife Diann have no children or grandchildren. Williams does not golf. He doesn’t fish. He still plays, drinks, and eats basketball. Six years ago, Williams said to me, after he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame: “I never got into coaching for money or to coach at a high level. Teaching basketball is my passion. It’s what I love to do.”