Frank Williams: When Nice Guys Don't Finish Last!

Harold BellContributor IIIMay 4, 2010

Former fiery and controversial major league baseball manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher was once told by a reporter that he would win more games if he was nicer to the umpires and his players.

Leo’s response, “Nice Guys Finish Last.” 

Leo never met Frank Williams. Frank never finished last in his life. 

He was a class act as a father, athlete, coach and teacher.

Unlike former NBA player Charles Barkley who never wanted to be a role model, Frank relished and loved the idea of being a role model to his two daughters Ryann and Randi, and to the hundreds of student/athletes he touched during his short coaching and teaching careers. 

If you met Frank Williams and you didn’t like him, it was a good bet you didn’t like yourself.  He led by example on and off the basketball court.

He was a product of the D.C. Public School system where he excelled as an outstanding basketball player at Coolidge High School, and later as a starting guard at Howard University.

Frank was a devoted teacher, coach and father who instilled in his students the importance of receiving an education, working hard and being a leader in the community.

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Throughout his childhood, these ideals were fostered in Frank by his parents and teachers in the District of Columbia public schools. Eventually, they would become the focus of his work with young people and lead him to a life dedicated to serving others.

It was never about him even when he won the city championship. 

He was a guest on my talk show "Inside Sports" and all he could talk about was the contributions of his players and the support of the Coolidge High School family. 

He even praised his beaten opponent. I was impressed because we were living in “The Me Generation.”

Frank Williams understood that when you help others you help yourself. Some folks just don’t get it.

Throughout his life, “the pigeon toed ball handler and flashy playmaker” was known as a hard worker and an excellent teacher of the game of basketball.

During his tenure as the head basketball coach at Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C., 95 percent of his students attended college and went on to serve the community in a variety of capacities.  

For Frank, this was more important than any of the other honors bestowed upon him.

In May of 1987, at the age of 43, Frank lost his life to brain cancer.  There is some truth to the saying “the good sometimes die young.”

His hard work and devotion to his student/athletes was never more apparent than when a who’s who of the DC basketball community came out and paid their last respects to him at his home going service. 

It was one of the hottest days of the month and you could hardly move in the sea of people who lined the block where his services were being held.

His colleague, community advocate and native Washingtonian, Sam Newman, said it best, “Frank Williams epitomized all of the characteristics outlined by his family for successful awardees—success on the field, exhibit strong leadership qualities, a commitment to education and serving the community. 

"I had no business on a basketball court but got to know Frank, well, while playing football with a group of guys calling themselves The Wild Bunch during the early 70s. 

Frank’s commitment to be one of the best on and off the field was readily discernible.  The scholarship Fund and the Two-Mile Walk are fitting tributes to a fine and devoted teacher, coach, father, husband and a friend to all.”

Frank’s legacy was honored through the naming of the Frank R. Williams Activity Center at his alma mater, Coolidge High School, and inductions into the D.C. Coaches Association and the Howard University Athletics Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, May 15, 2010, the Frank Williams Scholarship fund will sponsor a two-mile walk at his alma mater Coolidge High School.

His wife, Helen Williams, and daughters, Ryann and Randi, started the Frank R. Williams Scholarship Fund, Inc. to share his ideals with future generations of student athletes.

The mission of the fund is to provide financial support to Calvin Coolidge High School senior student athletes who are seeking higher education.

Awardees must display success on the field, exhibit strong leadership qualities and a commitment to education as well as servicing their community. 

Instead of being like Mike be like Frank Williams.

For more information on how to participate in this worth while endeavor or to make a donation, follow the link to and keep hope alive for some child who does not wish to finish last in the Game Called Life.