Whenever his busy schedule allows, Louis Wilson attends Howard University's men's basketball practice with notepad in hand, hoping to learn a play or two from his former coach, A.B. Williamson. Now in his third year as head coach at Douglass High School, Wilson is using every avenue possible to build a successful program at the Upper Marlboro school.
"I have already put in one of Coach Williamson's offenses," said Wilson, 26, who was an All-Prince George's County player before playing four years at Howard. "I go up and watch the Howard practices and talk to Coach Williamson about different things. I mainly want to watch his conditioning workouts, because when I played there, he always stressed physical conditioning. Our good physical condition is a primary reason we are winning."
Wilson, in the unusual situation of coaching at Douglass while working as an auditorium technician at Prince George's County AB League rival Central, has made use of every practice, clinic or coaches' conversation he has taken part in the past three years. In Wilson's first season, Douglass was 5-15. Last year, the Eagles were 12-12 and advanced to the Maryland Class A Region II final before losing to McDonough.
"McDonough made 29 straight free throws that game," said Wilson. "One of our goals is to get back to that (title) game.
"In the past couple of years, I've learned more of the techniques of coaching. I do a lot of reading and I've installed my own offenses and defenses in addition to the few I've picked up here and there. Because my team is so explosive offensively, we've seen a lot of different defenses and I've had to adjust quickly to situations."
Obviously, Wilson has done very well in the crucial situations. Going into the region playoffs this week, the Eagles were 17-5 and had captured the county AB championship with a 12-0 record.
"The five games we lost were to AA teams. They were just bigger and stronger than we were," Wilson said. "We run a fast-breaking offense and use a lot of different type of presses. The game is for the kids and the fans and bringing the ball up at that slow pace isn't fun for anyone to watch. Even the Celtics and the Lakers get beat once in a while on the break but they get the ball out quick and run the break right back at you. That is what we try to do."
Douglass, which recently lost to High Point, 116-91, is averaging just over 78 points per game with four starters, all seniors, in double figures. Rodney Curtis, 6 feet 2, is averaging 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, 6-1 Jerome Rice 16 points and 10 rebounds, 6-1 Antoine Pulliam 15 points with six assists and Kevin Ford 14 points and five assists. The other starter is the tallest of the group, 6-2 1/2 senior Shoalin Crawford, who averages nine points and four blocks per games.
Wilson is elated over his team's point production, but he is also quick to point out the five starters have grade point averages ranging from 2.83 to 3.83.
"I have tried to emphasize academics as much as possible and give the kids a good insight of what life is like outside of basketball," said Wilson, who graduated from Howard with a degree in physical education. "I want to see the kids develop as people as well as players. Even though I teach at Central, I've always wanted to come back and coach when I learned the game. Coaching at Douglass is a dream come true."
Williamson isn't surprised at Wilson's success. "He never expressed any interest in coaching when he was here, but he always conducted himself in a fine manner and matured greatly his senior year," Williamson said. "He's a workaholic and I knew he'd do well in whatever interests he pursued. I think he'll make a fine coach."
In addition to instructing Central students in the art of stage lighting for plays and making videos, Wilson is an assistant baseball and football coach at Douglass. He helps run the Falconers summer league and finds time to play in the Urban Coalition.
Wilson gets a lot of good-natured ribbing. He dreds the Douglass-Central games, when he is accused of being a traitor. Wilson's parents, Louis Sr. and Florence, still attend all the games. And just to keep the arguments in the family, brother Martino is a Douglass assistant coach.
"Oh, we disagree on some things but two heads are better than one," Wilson said. "My brother and I communicate very well. We believe the same philosophy. My parents came to watch us play and now they come watch us coach."
Wilson is proud of what his undersized team has accomplished.
"We still have a few things we would like to achieve, but we've had a great year thus far," he said. "We want to get to that (state) final game at Cole Field House."