Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Williams ready for next step as Gold Rush head coach

NEW ORLEANS — Alfred Williams is back, and he's prepared for any challenges that await him at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Williams, named this past week as Xavier's 12th head men's basketball coach, met Tuesday with media, the XU community and fans — about 100 people in all — during an introductory news conference on the concourse of the Convocation Center. Williams was a three-year player (2004-05, 2006-08) and six-year assistant coach (2009-15) for the Gold Rush and returned to his alma mater after one season as head coach at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

His brief tenure at Harris-Stowe will be remembered as one of the best turnarounds in NAIA Division I this past season. The Hornets improved by 7 1/2 games under Williams, exceeded their victory total of the previous two seasons combined and defeate
d a pair of NCAA Division II opponents.

Harris-Stowe was a great start for Williams, and it was a change of scenery he views as vital to his career.

"It was very beneficial to go to Harris-Stowe," Williams said. "There were things that I was not able to see or not able to gain the experience for while I was an assistant at Xavier. Being head coach at Harris-Stowe prepared me physically, prepared me mentally, prepared me emotionally. My time-management skills got a lot better."

The Hornets improved from 6-24 in 2014-15 to 14-17 in 2015-16. But there will be no starting from scratch for Williams at Xavier, a perennial NAIA power which has current consecutive streaks of 16 winning seasons, six 20-win seasons and six appearances at the NAIA's Division I national tournament. Each of the last three head coaches — Denny Alexander (212-129 in 12 seasons), Dale Valdery (234-136 in 12 seasons) and Dannton Jackson (294-130 in 13 seasons) — left the Gold Rush as the program's career leader in victories.

"I'm super-excited," Williams said, "to lead Xavier into the next era."

Williams knows the challenge. Xavier was eliminated in the first round at nationals each of the last six seasons. The most recent victory at nationals was in 2007, when a Williams block and ensuing layup in the closing seconds keyed an 82-79 upset of third-ranked Georgetown (Ky.) in the opening round. Xavier is 4-17 all-time at nationals, including 16 defeats in the last 17 attempts.

"It's easy to sell Xavier," Williams said. "I can sell Xavier's high academics, I can sell the facilities, I can sell the city. Once people know that you care about student-athletes, it will allow us to recruit them and bring them to our university. And hopefully they'll be able to graduate."

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

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