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Williams’ light shining bright with resurgent Knights’ squad

Published: Sunday, June 21, 2009

Updated: Thursday, June 25, 2009 13:06


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This is part four of a series profiling UCF head coaches.

Amid many successful and talented teams run by many of the nation's brightest coaches, one team and one coach seem to shine the brightest: The UCF Women's Basketball team and its head coach, Joi Williams.

After two years of mediocrity since joining Conference USA, UCF made a huge move for the program when, in 2007, it hired Joi Williams as the 11th head coach in the program's history.

In Williams' first year as head coach, she led the Knights to a 10-20 record with a team that frequently started five freshmen.

In her second year, Williams led the same young core to an 11-5 conference record, a C-USA championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the third tournament appearance in UCF history.

Williams is no stranger to rebuilding and turning around teams, and she has been a skilled coach and well-known recruiter throughout her career.

Williams started her basketball career back at the University of South Florida, where she played for four years.

After her playing days, Williams became an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Florida.

She spent 12 seasons in Gainesville and helped the Gators to nine tournament appearances.

She then became the head coach of Murray State, where she had four successful seasons with the team before landing the job as the Knights' head coach.

It's a perfect position for Williams, who said she has always known she's wanted to be a coach.

"I played basketball at USF, and I knew after I finished I wanted to stay involved with the sport and coach," she said.

She is coming up on her 19th year of coaching, and her accolades speak for themselves.

She was named the C-USA Coach of the Year after completing her second season, and she was rewarded with a four-year contract extension, which she said was important to her and the program.

"It means a lot (to get the extension). It means a lot to me that Dr. Hitt and Keith Tribble have confidence that I am the person that they want to lead this program," Williams said. "It really is an exciting time at UCF, and it's a great feeling for me to be secure in the fact that I am going to be here, and be the coach here for four more years. I am excited about what the future holds here."

Williams and the administration have been busy during the offseason to continue building that future.

In addition to her contract extension, Williams hired a new assistant coach in Chester Nichols. Nichols, one of the premier recruiters in the country, spent the past six years as an assistant coach for West Virginia University.

"Chester is a person who we're very fortunate to get," Williams said. "He's been coaching a lot of years, and he is very good at what he does. Everybody knows he's a great recruiter, but he's also a great person and a great coach.

"So we're excited, because he's somebody who was able to hit the ground running, and as soon as he came in, he didn't need too much of an adjustment period. It's a huge acquisition for us."

In addition to hiring a new assistant coach, Williams also promoted one within.

Assistant coach Greg Brown was promoted to associate head coach earlier this month.

"Coach Brown is someone that has been very loyal to me and to this program, and I felt like that was something I wanted to do for him, to show him and everybody else that he is a very capable coach," Williams said. "He is someone that I completely trust in my absence for whatever reason. He is good at what he does and a great teacher. I think our program has had a lot of success because of the hard work he's put in."

With all the moves made by Williams this offseason, it is almost as though she is building an empire at UCF.

And with already one C-USA Championship and a NCAA Tournament berth in two years, there is an opportunity for plenty more accomplishments during the next four years.

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