Jerome Williams never saw himself coaching a high school basketball team.
But the former NBA player finds himself in charge of one of the highest-profile programs in the country after Findlay Prep announced Tuesday that Williams would be its next head coach. He had been an assistant at Findlay for five seasons.
“I never thought I’d ever be running a high school program,” said Williams, who played nine seasons in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks. “I was always just a people-first type of individual. I let relationships kind of guide me, and my relationships have put me in a position where I’m helping kids achieve their goals like I was able to accomplish mine.”
Williams, 40, replaces Todd Simon, who left in July after one season as head coach to take a job as an assistant at UNLV.
Williams said he’s more than just a former NBA player. He said he can use his degree from Georgetown to show players the importance of education.
“I know I can take these players to the next level from an educational standpoint and a basketball career standpoint,” Williams said. “It’s unique enough to have a coach who has played in the NBA, but to have a coach who has played in the NBA with a college degree, it’s really an example in showing the value of education and the value of opportunity. That’s what I’m able to hit home the most.”
Williams learned that lesson from John Thompson, his coach at Georgetown. Thompson would tell his players about the satisfaction of making the NBA and backing up Bill Russell for 10 years, but he also emphasized how he earned his degree. Williams intends to follow that example, stressing the importance of life outside of basketball.
Simon went 35-1 in his one season after serving as an assistant to Michael Peck, who went 157-8 in five seasons.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill coming from the support of Todd Simon and Mike Peck, guys that have won national championships before,” Williams said. “And that’s the overall goal coming in, to graduate college-ready students and hopefully win a national championship.”
The program also announced that Andy Johnson was promoted to program director and associate head coach.
Findlay Prep will retain assistant coaches Michael Smalley and Brett Price.
“These guys, we all know the system, we all know the program,” Williams said.
And Williams has seen the program work in turning high school players with potential into NBA players. Former Findlay players Tristan Thompson, Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph and DeAndre Liggins have played in the NBA, and Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
“The formula is there if guys want to take advantage of it,” Williams said.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.