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Scribe (and NBA exec) Williams still has plenty to say

In his latest book, Orlando Magic senior vice president Pat Williams explains why 'extreme winners' thrive

POSTED: Nov 10, 2015 11:56 AM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner


Orlando Magic executive Pat Williams has written 100 books covering a variety of sports-themed topics.

After the first 99 books, one might think Pat Williams had said in those tens of thousands of pages everything he possibly could want or have to say.

But no, here is No. 100, a milestone almost as impressive as the number of children -- 19 -- he and his wives have raised.

Williams, the senior vice president of the Orlando Magic and NBA lifer dating to earlier incarnations as GM in Philadelphia and Chicago, has fashioned a second (or is it third or fourth?) career as an author and motivational speaker. Now he's touting "Extreme Winning: 12 Keys to Unlocking the Winner Within You."

"This one, I've been working on, I guess, for the better part of four decades," Williams said on a stop with the Magic at United Center last week. "These people we admire -- special athletes and special people in any field -- are not normal people. They're absolutely focused on winning, and at the extreme level."

Now 75, Williams' long career in sports -- as a pitcher in the low minor leagues, a front-office exec in the Philadelphia Phillies' and Minnesota Twins' farm systems and, in his move to the NBA, a promotions whiz who picked up a marketing degree at Wake Forest and did his graduate work listening to baseball impresario Bill Veeck -- gave him an insider's look at winning. He and co-author Peter Kerasotis identified 12 ingredients, each of which gets a chapter in "Extreme Winning."

"Whether it's Michael [Jordan] or Kobe [Bryant] or Larry Bird, whether it's Jerry Rice or Walter Payton, you go right down the line, they all have these 12 qualities," Williams said. "And they are absolutely consumed by winning, whether it's a championship or a business deal. We've seen Michael wanting to win whose suitcase would come down first at the baggage claim."

Philadelphia 76ers: 1983 Champions

The 1983 Sixers swept the Lakers to win their second NBA championship.

Williams' first book, about this career through his days as Bulls GM in 1974, came out in the fall of that year, by which time he had moved to the 76ers. Eventually he would preside over a Philadelphia team that would reach The Finals four times, winning a title in 1983. He helped found the expansion franchise in Orlando that began play in 1988.

Williams has enough pages on Amazon's Web site to qualify as his 101st book (in digital form, of course). He has written books about John Wooden, Vince Lombardi and Walt Disney, about leadership and coaching, entrepreneurship and family. Some have had a backdrop of faith, others were aimed strictly at business. Most have crossed over, tying together aspects of sports with other walks of life.

Each of this book's chapters focuses on one trait within the so-called extreme winners, things you might expect to see such as preparation, passion, work, attitude and goals (all with "Extreme" conveniently attached. Branding!)

The first chapter is also one of the best, examining "Extreme Dreams." Williams and Kerasotis manage to weave together tales from Steve Jobs and Henry Ford to Derek Jeter and Olivia Newton-John on the origins of their successes.

"Every extreme winner, a dream hit 'em and it captured their life," Williams said. "Many would have been very young and the dream propelled them through their lives. I think if you sat them down, they'd all tell you that something happened."

Pat Williams
Williams has been cancer free for nearly 5 years.

For Williams, it hit specifically on June 15, 1947, when his father took him to see his first major league baseball game at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. "Connie Mack's A's vs. Lou Boudreau's Indians. Sunday doubleheader," Williams said. "I fell in love with sports."

The final chapter is "Extreme Teamwork," which opens up the recipe for winning -- at least in non-individual sports -- to the other cooks in the kitchen. "At some point, a light goes on and they realize 'It's not going to happen unless we do it as a team,' " Williams said. "They realize it's a whole lot easier and effective if they do it together and they lead the way."

Bruce Bochy, three-time World Series winner managing the San Francisco Giants, wrote the book's foreword. Bochy recounts the tale of Travis Ishikawa who, after a successful run in the majors, was by 2014 stuck at Class AAA Fresno in the Giants' system. He wound up getting promoted and, through injuries to other players, was in the lineup in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, available for his ninth-inning, walk-off home run to send San Francisco to the World Series. Why? Ishikawa, Bochy writes, hadn't given up in the minors because he didn't want his three children to see him as a quitter.

As one might expect, the blurbs for book No. 100 comes from an impressive list of A-type personalities. "Pat has been around winning and he knows what it takes and how it feels," Clippers and former Magic coach Doc Rivers said. "This book is a great example of that."

Jay Gruden, coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins, began his endorsement of the book by saying he doesn't normally "buy into" such things, believing every individual and every team needs specific motivation. "However, by about page 3, I had my highlighter out and was taking notes," Gruden said.

Williams' most recent and personal experience with winning has come as a survivor of multiple myeloma cancer. He is approaching the five-year mark with a clean bill of health from his oncologist and is walking proof of the importance attitude and outlook play in such a battle.

As the father of 19 children -- 14 of whom were adopted and who range in age now from 43 to 29, with 14 grandchildren -- Williams was an obvious candidate to be asked a question familiar to parents of large broods: Which is his favorite book?

What he couldn't get away with saying about kids, he could about books: The one currently being thumped.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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