Magic Co-Founder & Senior Vice President Pat Williams Announces Retirement
ORLANDO – Orlando Magic co-founder, basketball Hall-of-Fame honoree and sports legend Pat Williams announced his retirement from the team Monday after a career that has spanned more than 56 years, including 30-plus years with the Magic and 51 years in the NBA.
"We are so grateful to Pat Williams for what he has done for sports in Orlando, Fla.," said Orlando Magic Chairman Dan DeVos. "Back in 1986 sat this beautiful city in the center of the state that was the perfect spot to bring what was missing - NBA basketball to the great people of Orlando. On behalf of our entire family, we thank Pat for making the Magic a reality."
More than 30 years ago, it was Williams who turned a dream into the Orlando Magic. Williams, along with local businessman Jimmy Hewitt, began the process of bringing an NBA team to Orlando in 1986. On April 22, 1987, the NBA Board of Governors granted an expansion franchise to Orlando, and on December 22, 1988, the Magic sold their 10,000th season ticket, thus fulfilling their commitment to the NBA and the Magic were born.
"Pat's many accomplishments will always be remembered, but ultimately he was a visionary who helped transform the world of sports in multiple ways," said Magic CEO Alex Martins. "From bringing the Magic to Orlando, to transforming sports marketing and promotions, he was always one step ahead. Pat forever changed the sports landscape in Orlando. He shined a light on what has been known for so long from native Central Floridians, that this is a fabulous place to live, work and play. We all owe him a debt of gratitude."
Williams has spent well over four decades in the NBA, starting his basketball career with the Philadelphia 76ers as the club's business manager in 1968. He followed that with his first general manager role in the NBA joining the Chicago Bulls as their GM at the tender age of 29. He remained a general manager in the league for 27 years in stints with the Bulls, Hawks and Sixers, playing a major role in bringing the NBA title to Philadelphia in 1983. Williams served as the Magic's GM until 1996 when he was promoted to his post of senior vice president.
Williams' first love is baseball, the sport that earned him a scholarship to Wake Forest University. While at Wake Forest, he 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.
Williams 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 his wife, Ruth, are the parents of 19 children, 14 of whom are adopted from four foreign countries. In addition, they have 18 grandchildren and counting.
Williams was diagnosed in February 2011 with multiple myeloma. After several rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, the cancer is now in remission. Williams has accepted positions on several boards for different cancer groups throughout the country, including an appointment on the Board of Directors for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Williams is the author of over 100 books, including his most recent publication, Character Carved in Stone. An avid runner, Williams completed 58 marathons from 1996-2011, including the Boston Marathon 13 times. Williams has also been honored with the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was named to the Magic's Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class in 2014.