Former Sea Gull returns to lead men's basketball team
On April 15, Salisbury University announced that Maurice Williams had accepted an offer to become the next head coach for the men’s basketball program.
But even though Williams will be the new head coach for the Sea Gulls, this is not his first time flying with the flock. The basketball journey for Williams began long before he accepted the new position.
Williams grew up in a town located just outside of Columbus, Ohio. Basketball was a key part of his life growing up.
Williams said he has been playing for as long as he can remember.
“I started the game of basketball as soon as I was able to walk,” Williams said.
Williams first recalls shooting hoops at his church in Ohio at a young age. He played Amateur Athletic Union basketball and continued playing through middle and high school.
When the time came to look at colleges, Williams wanted to go to the biggest school possible.
But Williams said he was unsure about the level of competition he fit in.
“For me, I didn’t think I was a Division I player, but I did not know much about Division III,” Williams said.
After his family moved to Maryland, Williams opted to attend a school closer to his new home.
This would be the first time Williams arrived at Salisbury University.
Williams tried out for the Salisbury basketball team, but ultimately did not make the cut. Ironically, Williams was informed of this in the same room he now calls his office.
Williams instead decided to get involved on the track and field team at SU. Williams said this was a big decision for him, as it helped him get back in the athletic groove.
“It was one of the best experiences from me, because it reminded me of what being a part of a team felt like,” Williams said.
Williams went home after the year and coached at a summer camp at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He said he would often play pickup games with the players afterwards.
This is where Williams ran into Webb Hatch, the head basketball coach at Frostburg State University.
Hatch told Williams to come to Frostburg and try out there. Williams had never heard of Frostburg and was unsure about the idea of attending the school.
But Williams ultimately decided he wanted to pursue basketball. He did make the team at Frostburg and was very successful from his sophomore season and on.
Williams was a star player for the Bobcats, especially in the 2011-12 season, his senior year. Williams was named to the All-CAC first team for his efforts and led the conference in points per game, free throw percentage and offensive rebounding.
After his playing career, Williams quickly transitioned into coaching. But he did not take long to return to Salisbury.
The Sea Gulls won the CAC Tournament for the first time in 18 years under head coach Josh Merkel in the 2014-15 season. Williams was on the staff as an assistant coach during the season.
Williams left Salisbury after the season and served as an assistant coach for Frostburg, Stevenson University and Johns Hopkins University over the next several years.
Williams eventually landed an assistant coaching gig at Longwood University, a struggling Division I school. Before Williams arrived at Longwood, the team had just two ten-win seasons out of its last seven.
The Lancers won more games the year Williams joined the staff than in their two previous seasons combined, a nine-win improvement from the previous season.
The 16 wins in the 2018-19 campaign were the most wins in a season for Longwood since 2009. Williams helped to turn the program around in just one season.
Meanwhile, Salisbury was undergoing turnover at the head coaching position. After the leave from former head coach Andrew Sachs, the Sea Gulls turned to then-assistant Brian McDermott to lead the flock for the 2018-19 year.
Williams said his experience with so many different schools was a key factor in coming back and accepting the job.
“Since I have been a coach at so many different programs worked with so many different guys in such a short amount of time, it really helped me develop my philosophy and learn how to build a culture,” Williams said.
Haven Simmons, a professor at Salisbury, met Williams while playing basketball in Maggs Physical Activities Center.
Simmons said he could tell the type of culture Williams plans to bring to the Salisbury program.
“He has the personality to promote the basketball program in a positive way,” Simmons said. “He is very enthused about the task at hand.”
Williams has worked with several successful coaches, helping him to build the ideas of how he thinks a program should be run.
Simmons believes Williams brings a lot to the table as a coach.
“He is very relevant to our players because he is a young man who is accomplished as a player and as a coach,” Simmons said.
Williams said he views Salisbury as a great place. As a man who recently became a father, he also calls Salisbury a great place to raise a family.
Williams has gotten off to a strong start at the helm, as Salisbury knocked off Division I opponent University of Maryland Eastern Shore in the 10-Mile Tipoff for the second straight season.
Going into the 2019-20 season, Williams wants his team to grow every day on the court, and that starts at practice.
“Our practices are structured to compete,” Williams said. “And if we keep putting good things together, great things will happen.”
By COREY YOUNG and NICK LEWIS
Staff writer and sports editor
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.