Women’s basketball head coach Mike Williams receives BCAM Coach of the Year award

Courtesy/GVSU Athletics Department

Courtesy/GVSU Athletics Department

Holly Bihlman, Staff Writer

Despite the ongoing challenges that athletes and coaches have faced this year, Grand Valley State University’s women’s basketball team has found a silver lining in the midst of a shortened season. The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan has named Mike Williams winner of the Women’s College Coach of the Year award.

This award comes as little surprise considering the team’s outstanding performance in the 2019-2020 season. The season ended with a 28-3 overall record as well as a shot at winning a game for the GLIAC championships that was unfortunately canceled at the last minute. Williams has made quite the impact on GVSU’s women’s basketball program in the five years he has been head coach, with no plans of slowing down coming into his sixth season. 

Before his impressive track record with GVSU, Williams has coached for around 35 years at all levels from junior high to the big ten. His resume includes assisting on the coaching staff at the University of Michigan and taking over the Davenport program before returning to GVSU for the head coach position. His first year was the 2015-2016 season, in which he took the team to the Final Four in the GLIAC Championships. 

Williams’ love for the sport stems back to his time as an athlete on the court. He always knew coaching was his calling.

“Since I was a little kid I wanted to coach, I didn’t know what, but it was going to be football or basketball,” Williams said. “I just wanted to coach, and basketball happened to be the sport I ended up playing after high school.”

One of the most important pieces of coaching is building a team atmosphere and creating relationships of trust and friendship both on and off the court. Those relationships are critical to GVSU’s overall success. There’s another important factor in the roots of GVSU’s success. 

“Building a team with this much success relies on creating an enjoyable atmosphere,” Williams said. “It’s a catch-22, you have to tie in hard work and you’ve got to be disciplined, but you also have to enjoy what you’re doing. We try to foster and develop self-motivation, whether academically, athletically, or just being a better person. We’ve got five rocks and number one is just be your best. You don’t have to be the best, but you have to be your best.”

This past season left both Williams and the players disheartened. At the same time, however, it opened up his perspective on the opportunity his athletes get once a year to succeed. Knowing that the seniors this past season were robbed of their last chance to bring home a trophy for GVSU stung a little more than a regular season loss at the end of a senior’s last game. It wasn’t just difficult for senior players, but for everyone involved in the great team last year that didn’t see the finish line. 

“You always kind of assess your chances of how far you can go as a team, and this was a great team,” Williams said. “The thing that struck me the most was, when it’s your last game, when the players are done, they’re done. As a coach you still have another shot at competing. This year it was like, I didn’t lose, but the players are done. It hurt more this year than any other year. We lost this opportunity, and we don’t want our players moving forward to take for granted the opportunities you have.”

Williams and the student-athletes on the basketball team plan to take back the opportunity to bring home a championship win this next season. Having such a long history with the basketball court and holding such an impressive list of records has done Williams’ honorary title as Coach of the Year justice. Heading into his sixth year as head coach at GVSU, Williams will undoubtedly build another outstanding team of women for the upcoming 2020-2021 season.