“Anybody that wanted the job that bad, I knew I needed to hire him,” McCarter recalled, “So I checked a couple of references, and we got it done.”
The job paid $400 a month, with a free dorm room kicked in. It really did happen that way, because as Williams is fond of saying, “Only God could author a story of that magnitude.”
What Williams is, is loyal. In 2008, on the day after Lewis Orr retired after 32 years as the head coach at tiny Navarro College in Corsicana, Tex., he got a call from Williams. Williams had just been hired as Marquette’s head coach after just one year as an assistant to Tom Crean, who was departing for Indiana, and he wanted to know if Orr would come work for him at Marquette as a consultant. It was Orr who, in 1990, gave Brent Williams, then a 17-year-old freshman, his first job in basketball, and it was Orr who started calling him “Buzz” — because that was the sound he gave off as he flitted from one task another, never stopping.
And that is how Orr, at age 70, went from the Southwest Junior College Conference to the Big East in one leap.
“He was always moving, with this nervous energy,” Orr, now 75, recalled Wednesday as he watched Marquette’s practice at Verizon Center. “And he was always calculating, thinking through things. Even now, he doesn’t sleep much, because he’s always thinking.”
What Williams is, is clutch. On March 19, as the Golden Eagles’ team plane was en route to Lexington, Ky., for their NCAA tournament opener against Davidson, Corey Williams, his wife, started having sharp pains in her abdomen. Buzz Williams arranged to have him and his wife taken straight to the emergency room, where she was admitted with appendicitis. Had they waited any longer, the appendix might have ruptured.
“I guess you could say he’s good under pressure,” Corey Williams said Wednesday, still under the weather but watching practice from 20 rows up in the stands. “He has to be — we can’t get a 10-point lead for the life of me.”
He spent the night in his wife’s hospital room, left at 4 a.m. to get ready for the next day’s practice, returned to check Corey out of the hospital — then, that weekend, guided Marquette to a pair of tense, last-possession victories over Davidson and Butler that were decided by a total of three points. After the Butler game, with what little energy he had left, he broke out in a goofy dance at midcourt.
There might have been an easier way to go about things, with less stress and more shut-eye. He might have benefited from an actual hotel room, a couple of 20-point blowouts and a quiet trip home. But that wouldn’t have made any sense. That’s not Buzz.