College - Ohio State
No chapter in the history of Knicks Basketball - its past, present, or future - is complete without Herb Williams.
One of the game’s most respected figures, Williams is currently in his 11th full season (12th season overall) as a Knicks coach. The senior coach on the Knicks’ staff, his tenure is the longest of any on-the-bench assistant coach in franchise history.
As instrumental in the club’s fortunes today as he was during his long and distinguished playing career, Herb is among the legion of Knicks loyalists who look forward to the 2012-13 season.
“I’m extremely excited,” says the 54-year old Williams. “I look at the strides we made at the end of last year (when) Coach Woodson took over and we went on that run, with Carmelo doing his thing and Tyson getting into his groove. You know, we had players going in and out once the Playoffs started. I thought Coach Woodson did a masterful job as far as handling things and putting pieces together.
“We look forward to coming back this year. We added some real good pieces and veteran players who understand the game. And when you add major pieces, you need a full training camp, which is what we will have this year.”
Herb joined the Knicks’ staff as an assistant coach on Dec. 29, 2001, and few figures are as synonymous with the team - as player and coach - as he. As a Knicks assistant coach, Williams has served under head coaches Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Mike D’Antoni and now Mike Woodson. He assumed the reins of the Knicks for the final five games of the 2005-06 season, during Brown’s illness.
“He’s been around a long time and has a wealth of experience,” says Woodson. “He’s spent a great amount of time in New York, both as a player and as a coach. I call him a big man coach because it’s hard to find coaches that can teach big man skills, and can respect and relate to them and what they bring to a team. Herb brings that to the table. He’s great at preparation in terms of putting a game plan together. All of that goes hand-in-hand when you’re trying to put together a good staff.”
Included in Williams’ coaching tenure is an overall mark of 17-27 as Knicks head coach. Succeeding Lenny Wilkens as Knicks headmaster on Jan. 22, 2005, Herb piloted New York for the remainder of the 2004-05 season, going 16-27. He also notched a 120-110 win over Orlando as interim coach on Jan. 14, 2004, prior to Wilkens’ formal arrival. Herb has also served as head coach of the Knicks’ entries in the 2003 Reebok Boston Summer Pro League and the 2004 LA Summer Pro League in Long Beach.
During his playing tenure, Williams was a force in New York’s locker room as a leader both on and off the court. For three seasons (1996-97 through 1998-99), he served as Knicks tri-captain. His knowledge and leadership qualities made him a natural for his post-playing career.
As a Knick, Herb became a Garden fan favorite as Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing’s primary backup in the pivot as well as a guiding force off the court. His final on-court appearance - a scoreless minute in Game Five of The 1999 NBA Finals against San Antonio - made him the oldest Knick ever to appear in a game (41 years, four months, nine days). He entered the current season as the only man in Knicks history to play in a game past his 40th birthday, although former teammate Kurt Thomas (on his first appearance) and Jason Kidd (Mar. 23) are slated to join him in 2012-13.
Williams’ longtime identification with the Knicks and the world’s greatest basketball city was formally cited on Feb. 20, 2012, when he received the fourth annual “Dick McGuire Knicks Legacy Award,” given annually to an individual whose contributions both on and off the court mirror those of the late, beloved Hall of Famer. He joined previous winners McGuire, Cal Ramsey and Mike Saunders.
“It was very gratifying,” says Herb of the McGuire Award, “because when you talk about past Knicks players, you always talk about Willis Reed and Earl Monroe and Clyde Frazier. Because Dick played such a long time ago, you have to be a true Knick fan to understand what he meant to the franchise and what he did as far as playing, coaching and scouting. He had his blueprint on the Knicks for a long time.
“And then you’re talking about one of the toughest players ever to play the game. That’s what our team in the ‘90s tried to stand for; our toughness, our pride in the city. We tried to carry New York on our backs, and when you look at all that, you’re going to see Dick McGuire’s face...So for me to receive that award was so gratifying. It means everything. You talk Knicks and you’re talking Frazier and Willis and Ewing, and Dick McGuire.”
Williams’ coaching tenure follows a distinguished playing career that spanned 18 seasons (1981-82 through 1998-99), just three shy of the all-time NBA record of 21 shared by Robert Parish and Kevin Willis. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Herb is one of only nine players in NBA history to appear in a game following his 41st birthday, along with Parish, Willis, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Cousy, Nat Hickey, Charles Jones, John Stockton and Dikembe Mutombo.
Indiana’s first-round pick (14th overall) in the 1981 NBA Draft, the 6-foot-11 Williams averaged 10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and shot .467 from the field for the Pacers, Mavericks, Raptors and Knicks. He scored 11,944 points in 1,102 career games. Herb played the first 7½ seasons of his career with Indiana, and is third in blocked shots (1,094; behind only Jermaine O’Neal and Rik Smits), seventh in games played (577), seventh in total minutes (18,455) and eighth in total rebounds (4,494) on the Pacers’ all-time franchise lists.
Williams spent virtually all of the final seven years of his playing career as a Knick, and was one of only two players (along with Ewing) to be a member of both of the Knicks’ Eastern Conference Championship teams of 1994 and 1999. He originally signed with the Knicks as a free agent on Nov. 15, 1992. Williams was part of two separate trades (to Toronto on Feb. 18, 1996 and to Philadelphia on Feb. 19, 1998), but quickly returned to the Big Apple just days after both.
Williams averaged 17.6 points and 9.7 rebounds in a four-year college career at Ohio State, and became the first Buckeye in school history to record more than 2,000 career points (2,011).
Born on Feb. 16, 1958 in Columbus, OH, Williams was a recreation major at Ohio State. Herb has four children - Erica (26, a 2008 graduate of George Washington University), Jabrille (20, who is attending Binghamton University in upstate NY and is a member of the school’s basketball team) and one-year old twins Jacob and Jayda - and lives in Stamford, CT. Off the court, Herb is extremely involved in the community, spending countless hours with area youth.