Pat Williams (basketball)
Pat Williams (born May 3, 1940) is a motivational speaker and sports executive, currently serving as a senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Williams began his career as a minor league baseball player, and later joined the front office of his team. In the late 1960s he moved into basketball, with his biggest achievements being the 1983 title of the Philadelphia 76ers and being a partner in the creation of the Orlando Magic.
Williams was born in 1940 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second oldest of four children and the only son. He was raised in Wilmington, Delaware, attending Tower Hill School where his father coached and taught. He became a friend of Ruly Carpenter, son of Philadelphia Phillies owner Bob Carpenter, who would bring Williams to the Phillies’ dugout and clubhouse, as well as to the team's Spring training in Clearwater, Florida.
His interest in baseball would earn Williams a scholarship to Wake Forest University. There Williams earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1962 while being a catcher on the Demon Deacons baseball team. Williams would later earn a master’s of science degree in physical education from Indiana University in 1964. Additionally, Pat served for seven years in the United States Army and later got a doctorate in Humane Letters from Flagler College.
Former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck is credited by Williams as his mentor, with a visit to Veeck in 1962 starting their friendship and giving Williams principles followed in his career, such as “Don’t announce promotions in advance, be out on the speaking circuit, stand at the gates when fans leave, open your own mail and don’t screen your calls".
Williams' baseball career began when the Carpenters signed him in 1962 to the Miami Marlins, their minor league team in the Florida State League. He pitched for two years before a dead arm stopped him from playing. Marlins general manager Bill Durney still saw in Williams an eager and natural leader with a marketing degree, and invited him to be the team's business manager. One year later, the Phillies appointed him to be the general manager of the Spartanburg Phillies. As the Phillies became a powerhouse of the Western Carolinas League, Williams was later elevated to the position of president of the organization in 1967, and was chosen the Minor League Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. Afterwards he spent three years in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Even after moving to basketball, Williams keeps on taking a part in baseball. Every winter, he plays in Major League Fantasy Camps, and was president of Orlando’s Double-A Southern League team from 1990 to 1993.
Williams moved into basketball in 1968, becoming the Philadelphia 76ers business manager. With promotions that included elaborate halftime shows and a successful 55-27 performance, the 76ers were third in attendance of the 1968-69 NBA season. Afterwards the faltering Chicago Bulls hired Williams to become their general manager. Williams immediately revamped the team’s roster, trading with the Sixers for Chet Walker, and invested on the promotion, including the creation of mascot Benny the Bull. The Bulls had become a force in the league as the Atlanta Hawks brought Williams to be their GM in 1973. He spent just one year in Atlanta, where his most notable action was trading star Pete Maravich for two players and five draft picks. As the Sixers had become one of the worst teams in the NBA, owner Irv Kosloff invited Williams to return in 1974. Williams then remained in Philadelphia for 12 years as their general manager, helping to build the team that won the 1982-83 NBA season, by trading for Julius Erving and Moses Malone, and drafting Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney.
Frustrated at his failure to build a 76ers dynasty despite bringing new talent such as Charles Barkley, Williams left the organization in 1986. As the year before Orlando executive Jim Hewitt told Williams of his idea of bringing an NBA team to his city, he decided to join Hewitt's investment group. Williams invested in convincing NBA commissioner David Stern and the league owners of the viability of the small-town Florida city in supporting an NBA franchise. The league awarded the Orlando Magic an expansion spot in 1987, with the team making its debut in 1989. Serving as the franchise's inaugural manager, Williams helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 1995 by drafting Shaquille O'Neal and trading a draft pick for Penny Hardaway. The following year he was promoted to senior vice president of Magic parent company RDV Sports, Inc..
In his NBA career, Williams lead his teams to 23 NBA Playoffs and five NBA Finals. He won four NBA draft lotteries, including back-to-back winners in 1992 and 1993 and most recently in 2004. Williams signed Billy Cunningham, Chuck Daly, and Matt Guokas to their first professional coaching contracts. Nineteen of his former players have become NBA head coaches.
Pat met his first wife, Jill, during his time in Chicago. They married in 1973 and divorced in 1996, being the parents of 19 children, five biological and 14 adopted from four nations between 1983 and 1993. His daughter Karyn is a Christian singer, and son Bobby a pro scout for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In 1997, he married his current wife Ruth, a consultant with FranklinCovey Co., who brought to the house a child of her own.
Williams is also a motivational speaker. He has addressed thousands of executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies and national associations to universities and nonprofits. Clients include AllState, American Express, Cisco, Coca-Cola, Disney, Honeywell, IBM, ING, Lockheed Martin, Nike, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Tyson Foods to name a few.
Williams is the author of 100 books, including his latest title, "Extreme Winning." He hosts three weekly radio shows broadcast in Orlando, FL.
Williams has been featured in Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, The Wall Street Journal, Focus on the Family, New Man, The Maury Povich Show and Dr. Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power.
He is a member of the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame after catching for the Deacon baseball team, including the 1962 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship team. He was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 2001. He won the DECA Entrepreneurial Spirit award at DECA's International Career Development Conference in 2011.
On February 24, 2012, Williams was announced as that year's winner of the John Bunn Award, presented annually by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for significant lifetime contributions to the sport. He formally received the award on September 6, the day before the induction ceremony for the Hall's 2012 class.
- "Pat Williams Bio | The Grable Group"
- "Benny the Bull Bio", NBA.com, accessed July 5, 2006.
- "Orlando Magic Executive Pat Williams To Receive Hall of Fame's 2012 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award" (Press release). Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. February 24, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
|Chicago Bulls General Manager
|Atlanta Hawks General Manager
|Philadelphia 76ers General Manager
|Orlando Magic General Manager