As a family man, educator and head coach of the powerhouse Lake Clifton High School boys basketball teams in the 1970s and 1980s, Woodrow “Woody” Anderson Williams Jr. savored the opportunity to have an impact on the lives around him.
He did so with a tone that was mostly mild-mannered but stern when necessary.
On Sunday, Mr. Williams died at his North Baltimore home from metastatic renal cell carcinoma. He was 80.
Born in Philadelphia, he was the son of Woodrow Williams Sr., a police officer in Glassboro, New Jersey, and Evelyn Woodland, a longtime employee of the Bell Telephone Company in Philadelphia. He was raised by his grandparents, Edward and Estelle Woodland, in Glassboro.
Mr. Williams was a 1960 graduate of Glassboro Senior High School and then came to Baltimore to attend what was then Morgan State College, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education.
A four-year member and captain of Morgan State’s swim team, he was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974. He also served in the National Army Medical Corps Reserve.
During his college days, he met fellow Morgan State student-athlete and future Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and the University of Maryland basketball coach Bob Wade. The two became immediate friends.
Later, they became fierce rival high school coaches on the basketball court and football field — Mr. Williams at Lake Clifton and Mr. Wade at Dunbar. When Mr. Wade was named the men’s basketball coach at Maryland in 1989, Mr. Williams served as his administrative assistant. Mr. Wade recalled how people were always amazed seeing the two coaches “fight tooth and nail” during a game and then witnessing them later enjoying a meal together.
“We were fierce competitors on the court and football field, but off the field we were the dearest of friends,” Mr. Wade said. “Woody was my friend, he was my confidant and, more importantly, the brother I never had.”
In 1966, Mr. Williams married Beverly Elizabeth Brown, at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. They were married for 56 years and had one daughter, Dr. Lanaya Williams Smith of Baltimore.
In 1965, Mr. Williams taught physical education at Edmondson-Westside High School and moved on to Lake Clifton when it opened in 1971. He coached various sports including basketball, football, swimming and track and field, and also served as athletic director at Lake Clifton and later at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School before retiring in 2004.
As a coach, Mr. Williams enjoyed success but, more importantly, imparted life skills to all his players.
His most profound coaching success came with the Lake Clifton boys basketball program when, from 1971 to 1987, he guided the Lakers to a 278-93 record. In consecutive seasons in 1975 and ’76, the Lakers went 46-4 with Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference and Baltimore City crowns. In the 1986-87 season, the Lakers went 26-1 with a sweep of both titles.
Kenny McNeil, a star guard on the 1986-87 team, said Mr. Williams would always reinforce how the team was most important and that things would come together if everybody believed in one another.
“Coach was everything. He helped me out a lot and was a good man,” Mr. McNeil said. “He was disciplined, but also as a good guy, a friend. I always wanted to play my heart out for him and I always liked the smile on his face. He loved to win.”
Kevin McDuffie Sr., a 1984 Lake Clifton grad and current assistant coach at the school, said Mr. Williams left an impression that will never leave him.
One of eight siblings, Mr. McDuffie said Mr. Williams took on a role in his life much larger than a coach.
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“Great coach. Great person. Great father figure,” Mr. McDuffie said. “At that time, my father was not in my life. So just a true coach and a true father is who [Mr. Williams] was to me. He was one of a kind and he will definitely be missed. I’m just honored to have had the opportunity to play under him and learn from him.”
At the start of a season early in Mr. McDuffie’s high school playing career, Mr. Williams presented him with his first new pair of leather basketball shoes.
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They came with one demand from Mr. Williams, who would always say: “Stay in school, do well and make your mother proud,” Mr. McDuffie said.
As an assistant coach at Lake Clifton, Mr. McDuffie tries to instill the same values to this generation’s Lakers.
“That was what I got mostly from him — to work hard because nobody is going to give you anything. You got to go out and earn what you want,” he said. “As an athlete, I had that as a goal, kept working hard until I got to where I wanted to be. So all the time you heard that, he spoke to that. He was a coach that was very disciplined, he made you earn everything.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Williams is survived by his sister, Mrs. Faith Baxter of Virginia Beach, Virginia; a granddaughter, Madison Beverly Smith of Baltimore; a grandson, Austin Woodrow Smith of Baltimore; and nieces and nephews.
Service arrangements have not been made at this time.