By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
A familiar face in Muscogee County School District high school basketball will be back on the sidelines this winter.
George Williams, a former long-time coach at Spencer, Carver, Smiths Station and Eufaula, who was head coach at Kingdom Christian during the 2011-2012 season, has been hired as the new boys basketball coach at Columbus High.
"I know it's a big challenge coming to Columbus High, especially since it's an academic magnet school," said Williams. "But if volleyball, baseball, golf and other sports can swing it, then I think basketball can be competitive and successful as well. It's going to be a long journey where we have to working on developing fundamentals and getting players interested in Columbus High."
Columbus High athletic director Chad Mathis said hiring Williams is a big step in giving the Blue Devils' program some legitimacy.
"George was a long-time coach at Spencer and when we went through the process of hiring a new coach, we only had a math opening," said Mathis. "We posted the position, but weren't able to find a good fit. We thought George might be a good candidate and we had to hire someone immediately. When we approached him about it, he was pretty excited. It was a great find for us and with his experience, I think he can get the program going in the right direction. For us to be able to get him was really a dream come true."
Williams replaces Mark Day who had a 7-19 record last season and a 35-114 mark in six seasons. Despite the Blue Devils' lack of success recently, Williams said he feels that his team can be successful in his first season at the helm.
"This season, the goal is to take the hand I've been dealt and that gives me a group of eight or nine seniors," Williams said. "I think it's important for us to make improvements this season, and that means have a winning season and working on being one of those top four teams that makes the state playoffs.
"In the future, we want to have a program that reloads instead of rebuilds. The goal is to build a program that's competitive at the state level every year."
After leaving Spencer in 2008 after 13 years with a 195-151 record, Williams wanted to coach on the collegiate level, but was unable to make it happen. So, last season he took the position at Kingdom Christian and led the Lions to a perfect 23-0 record and state and national titles on the Christian school level. However, the opportunity to coach at Columbus wasn't one Williams was going to pass up.
"During that time, I was teaching at Fort Valley (State) and Kingdom Christian called and asked if I'd like to coach there," Williams said. "There wasn't any conflict with my teaching job, so I did and we had a great season. But once I realized I wasn't going to land a college coaching job, I knew I'd be back coaching somewhere around here. "
Spencer's best season under Williams came in 2006 when the Greenwave won the Region 2-AAA title and advanced to the state semifinals.
As part of a 35-year coaching career, Williams was an assistant coach at Eufaula when that school won the Alabama Class 3A state championship.
Along with being athletic director, Mathis is the softball coach and assistant baseball coach, so he's very familiar with the challenges Williams will face in building the basketball program.
"Columbus High is 60 to 65 percent female students and you have to take a test to come here," Mathis said. "Not only do you have the academic load, but you have the community service obligations, projects and other things that come with going to school here. All of our girls sports are very competitive. In boys sports, football and basketball are your two biggest money-makers and we've not been as successful over the past few years.
"That's something we want to change. When football and basketball are successful, people know who you are. We're trying to get kids in here who can help those programs be successful, but it's a matter of finding kids who are wanting to do all that's required to come here.
"What I'm hoping as athletic director with the hiring of coach Williams is that if we can get a few more kids to come to Columbus High, we can get the program on track. But until we get more male athletes in there, it's going to be a challenge."
-- Kevin Price contributed to this report