A Fitting Homecoming: Why Buzz Williams is at his rightful home

Reading a Buzz Williams tweet is an adventure into the creative mind.

Each 280-character message is spotted with various emojis and symbols that frequently add a dash of the new Texas A&M head basketball coach’s character to the post, for better or for worse. Team text messages often resemble his Twitter timeline, which can draw a few jokes from Williams’ new players.

“If you don’t understand it, just go read it over a few more times,” Buzz typically rebuts, senior guard Wendell “Chuck” Mitchell said.

Upon further review, all the desired information is right there, woven between the detail of picture and word, Mitchell said.

Williams hasn’t been in Aggieland long, but his immediate impact has been felt in those small details, which he learned through several levels of basketball throughout the state of Texas.

“The stuff that he teaches us about life applies to us on the court,” Mitchell said. “He disciplines us in life then it helps us focus better on the court and we just notice more about the details. He’s really detailed and that’s been the difference maker in our practices and workouts.”

It’s a characteristic he learned early in his career.

Williams did not play college basketball. Instead, the youngster from Van Alstyne offered his services as a manager for former Navarro College head coach Lewis Orr. His days were filled with studies, cleaning the hardwood and filling notebooks full of basketball philosophy.

To this day, Williams has kept a monthly notebook for every year he has been in coaching, complete with practice plans. As a student manager, or an assistant coach at A&M from 2004 to 2006, Williams said he didn’t know he would ever use his notes as a Division I head coach. He simply didn’t want to miss a detail, he said.

“There's no other power five head coach and basketball that was a junior college manager,” Williams said. “There's only one other power five head coach that even attended a junior college. So, just the path is so unique. And I think my paradigm was so small, that even what my dreams were, they were not anything as big as this.”

Williams’ native state was instrumental in his path to head coaching. Williams served as an assistant at Texas-Arlington and Texas A&M-Kingsville before his first tenure in Aggieland. There, former A&M head coach Billy Gillispie, another Texas native, took Williams under his wing and made the biggest impact on the young coach since Orr first put him on the coaching career path.

“Coach [Gillispie] means the world to me,” Williams said. “And if you if you look back at my career, it's easy to say if coach would not have hired me I wouldn't have had the chances that I've had. So my loyalty will always be to Coach.”

As recruiting coordinator, Williams built a 2005-06 squad that took the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament appearance in 25 years.

A&M women’s basketball coach, hall-of-famer Gary Blair, first learned of Williams’ abilities during this time of his career.

“I’ve never seen such an organized, more detailed conscious coach than he is.” Blair said.

It took Williams leaving the state to take the next step as a head coach, but he made a name for himself away from Texas.

With stops at New Orleans, Marquette and Virginia Tech, Williams compiled a 253-155 record, including eight NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2012-13, Williams made his deepest run to the Elite Eight with Marquette.

However, through all that success, Williams said he has finally made it back where his family belongs. His wife, formally Corey Norman, was a state tournament MVP playing basketball at Canyon Randall High School. With a few phone calls and a plane ride with former A&M athletic director Scott Woodward, Williams was able to bring their family back to their roots.

As they boarded the plane that brought them back to Aggieland for the first time in April, Williams said he called Gillespie and uttered the simple sentiment, “I just wanted to say thanks and I’m flying home.”

Just as he began his career, Williams continually studies successful coaches, from any sport. One he has always cast an eye towards is the football coach who inhabits the stadium across Wellborn Road from the home of the A&M basketball team – Jimbo Fisher. In April, Williams found it hard to control his excitement toward meeting someone who he has admired from afar, he said.

In following six months, Fisher has developed a similar admiration for his new colleague.

“He's been very successful and he knows this place,” Fisher said. “He’ll do very well. He’s very charismatic and he’s a very intelligent, smart, hardworking guy.”

So far, he’s made an emphasis of that work ethic. While his impact has been mostly reserved to offseason workouts, Mitchell said he can hear Williams’ voice in his head telling him to get all ten toes across the line when running sprints. It’s just one of the many small details Williams has pieced together in an attempt to return a 14-18 Aggie squad to the NCAA Tournament prominence it held in his first round in College Station.

“I think Buzz will not leave any detail undone,” Blair said. “He’s that good and he will follow through.”

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