Magic to Honor Pat Williams

Williams helped make a professional sports dream a reality for Central Florida
Commitment to the Past Night - Honoring Pat Williams
March 23, 2007 | 7:00PM
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March 21, 2007

Orlando, FL – One of the driving forces in Orlando's effort to land an NBA franchise in the late 1980s will be honored on Friday.

Pat Williams, who served as the team's general manager for seven years after being approached by Orlando businessman Jim Hewitt and asked to help bring an NBA franchise to Central Florida, will be honored by the Magic when they take on the New Jersey Nets on March 23 (7:00pm tip).

During the game, the Magic will recognize Williams with a video tribute, on-court presentation, and by unveiling a permanent banner on the arena concourse. Other activities will be part of the festivities, including fan interactive elements and appearances on game broadcasts. The Magic will wear Hardwood Classic black pinstripe uniforms as well.

Williams has more than 44 years of professional sports experience to his credit. The 66-year-old protégé of the late Bill Veeck is probably most known for his promotional and marketing wizardry.

That same type of creativity and ingenuity has turned a Central Florida pro sports dream into the reality of Orlando Magic basketball, reaching into the homes of NBA fans throughout the country.

Williams was promoted to his current post from the general manager position in April of 1996. As the senior vice president, Williams serves in strategic planning activities relating to RDV Sports, named for Rich DeVos and the parent company of the Magic. He also spearheads research of future RDV Sports properties. Additionally, he serves as the promotional leader and strategic marketer for memberships at the $50 million state-of-the-art RDV Sportsplex. He is involved in training and mentoring of RDV Sports employees, while making public appearances on behalf of RDV Sports and the Orlando Magic.

Williams is also considered one of the country’s top motivational and inspirational public speakers. His wife, Ruth, teaches time management seminars for the FranklinCovey Company.

Prior to joining the Central Florida pro basketball effort in June of 1986, Williams spent 12 seasons as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. During that time, he took a Sixers team that posted a 34-48 record in 1974-75 to a World Championship in 1983. Through several personnel moves during that time, Williams played a major factor in bringing the NBA title to Philadelphia.

Williams joined the Sixers in 1968 as the club’s business manager. The next season, at the tender age of 29 he became the general manager of the Chicago Bulls, and remained in that post until 1973. While in Chicago, he raised average game attendance figures at Chicago Stadium from 3,700 to more than 10,000 per game. In 1973, he left the Bulls organization to become general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, where he served one season before returning to take over the reins in Philadelphia.

Williams and Orlando businessman Jim Hewitt in their efforts to bring some "Magic" to Orlando
Though Williams has spent well over four decades in the NBA, his first love is baseball, the sport that earned him a scholarship to Wake Forest University. While at Wake Forest, Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He was a three-year letterman as a catcher on the Demon Deacons baseball team and is a member of the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. He later went on to earn a master’s of science degree in physical education from Indiana University in 1964.

Williams’ baseball career began when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962 and spent two seasons catching for the Miami Marlins, a Class A club in the Florida State League. He quickly moved from the playing field to the front office, when he was appointed business manager of Miami in 1964. He took the general manager job with the Spartanburg (S.C.) Phillies in 1965 and was later elevated to the position of president of the organization in 1967.

In 1967, he was chosen the Minor League Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. Williams remains active in baseball as a catcher in Dream Week games in Florida during the winter. He was also the president of Orlando’s Double-A Southern League team from 1990-1993. Pat’s son, Bobby, is a manager in the Washington Nationals farm system.

Pat was born in Philadelphia on May 3, 1940, and was raised in nearby Wilmington, Del., where he attended Tower Hill School. He was voted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Pat and Ruth are the parents of 19 children, 14 of whom are adopted from four foreign countries. The Williams family roster reads as follows: Stephanie (34), Jim (32), Bobby (29), David (29), Peter (28), Brian (27), Karyn (27), Thomas (26), Stephen (26), Sarah (26), Daniella (25), Andrea (25), Richie (25), Sammy (24), Caroline (23), Michael (22), Gabriella (22), Katarina (21) and Alan (20). Four of the children are from Korea, four from the Philippines, two from Romania, and four from Brazil. Pat and Ruth also have three grandchildren, Laila, Brianna and Ava.

Pat has written 43 books, including his version of the birth of the Orlando Magic, entitled Making Magic. His two most recent books are Who Wants to Be a Champion and How to Be Like Coach Wooden. An avid runner, Williams completed the 100th Boston Marathon in April of 1996 and completed the race the following 10 years.