A.B. Williamson, a longtime celebrated coach at Eastern High School and Howard University, died on June 2 after battling health issues. (Courtesy photo)
A.B. Williamson, a longtime celebrated coach at Eastern High School and Howard University, died on June 2 after battling health issues. (Courtesy photo)

They often say that a man is measured by his body of work.聽 If that is true, then A.B. Williamson can be considered a giant.聽 At, 79, Williamson, who recently died on June 2 after battling health issues, leaves behind a lasting legacy.聽

Following his graduation from North Carolina A&T, where he played baseball, Williamson took a position at Eastern High School in Northeast, Washington as a physical education teacher.  With his love of sports, Williamson took over the head coaching positions of basketball and then baseball as a dual-sport coach. 

Once at the helm, it did not take Williamson long to establish the programs as some of the elite in the DMV area.聽 The baseball team went on to win three straight Interhigh (now DCIAA) titles.聽 As successful as he was as a baseball coach, it was in the sport of basketball that he took the program to great heights, consistently ranking among the best in the talent-rich area.聽 The team finished No. 1 in the country in 1972-73.

Along the way, Williamson produced some of the top players in the country with the likes of James Ratiff and James “Turk” Tillman, who would go on to play at Tennessee and Maryland, respectively

With that success on his resume, Williamson made an important move. Howard University, which had moved up to the Division 1 level, named him as its head basketball coach in 1975. There, he helped establish Howard鈥檚 basketball program as one of the tops in the then newly formed Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).聽 Williamson鈥檚 dedication to building the team culminated in back-to-back MEAC titles, in 1979-80 and 1980-81, the latter resulting in an automatic bid to the NCAA Sweet 16, becoming the first team in the MEAC to represent the conference in the Big Dance.

Williamson went on to coach for 15 years at the Hilltop and compiled a 228-169 career record.  During that period, He was named the MEAC Coach of the Year three times (1980, 83, 87).  His 25-5 record and 13-1 conference record in 1986-87 still stands as the best in school history. The 228 victories have yet to be matched in over three decades

Under Williamson, Howard produced a number of all-conference and players of the year, including former NBA champion Larry Spriggs as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson.

That body of work includes several of his former players, assistant coaches and staff who have taken the teachings and guidance from him and parlayed them into successful careers

Lou Wilson is a former player and assistant coach at Howard, who is the current head coach at Wise High School and has compiled a record of close to 800 wins during his career:

“A.B. Williamson served as a role model for me on and off the court,” Wilson told The Informer.  “I watched how he touched so many lives through coaching. I used that as an example when I got into coaching in high school. I have adopted some of the techniques and philosophy that I learned while playing and coaching under him. He has played a great role in my success.

Mike Jones is also a former player under Williamson and current head coach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“When you have a chance to be around people who are successful, it rubs off,” noted Jones. “I owe a lot of my success to A.B. and his leadership. I am still awed by the fact that he was able to build a winning program with just one assistant. It is testament to him.”

Yet another former player and assistant coach under Williamson, Jeff Williams offered his experience under Williamson.

“There are things that I learned from A.B. that have helped me in my coaching career,” commented聽 Williams, a former head women’s coach at LaSalle and current assistant coach at East Carolina. “The lessons that he taught on and off the court have been instrumental in my career as a coach.”

Perhaps one of the biggest beneficiaries of Williamson’s mentoring is Cy Alexander. 

Having served as the top assistant under Williamson for many years, Alexander went on to be one of the most successful coaches in HBCU history. A former head coach at South Carolina State, Tennessee State and North Carolina A&T, he is one of the winningest coaches in HBCU history with almost 400 victories and has taken two different programs (NC A&T, SC State) to the NCAAs:

“My college career started under A.B.,” Alexander told The Informer.聽“He took a chance on me as a 22-year-old graduate in 1976 and it has paid off.聽 A.B. became a mentor and a close friend.聽 I am indebted to him for my success as a college coach.” Alexander holds the distinction of taking two different schools (SC State and NC A&T) to the NCAAs while recording close to 400 victories during his career.

During his coaching tenure, Williamson also helped nurture the careers of some off the court.

Take Lamont Fain, the team’s first known manager for men’s basketball.  

Lamont Fain, former team manager and current senior director of the NBA:

“A.B. gave me my first opportunity as manager of the Howard men’s basketball team,” explained Fain, a senior director in the NBA.聽“I came in for an interview and he asked me a couple of questions and then asked me when I could start.聽 From there, I became the team manager for four years at Howard.聽 I am indebted to AB for my career journey.”

John Spencer is another example. He is a former player and ESPN analyst and currently the CEO of 540 Sports Agency that represents athletes:

“Coming out of high school, I was recruited by several Power 5 schools, but I wanted to attend an HBCU,” recalled Spencer, a member of the Howard Athletic Hall of Fame.  “A.B. and Cy Alexander developed a strong relationship with me and my family.  I learned a lot of lessons from him as a young man trying to figure things out. AB instilled confidence in me and always made me feel that he would take care of me. That’s why I chose Howard even though I was being recruited by some Power 5 schools.”

Williamson is an inductee into both the Howard and the MEAC Hall of Fames.

Following his illustrious coaching career at Howard, he went on to serve as Athletics ticket manager, Interim Director of Athletics and the first official director of compliance in school history.

Deborah Johnson, member of the Howard faculty, a former assistant athletic director and current Athletics Faculty Rep also was impacted by Williamson in his transition to the administrative side:

“One of the most rewarding things that I treasure as an administrator is the work that AB and I were able to collaborate on,” said Johnson, who has been at Howard for over 40 years.聽 “When he was in athletics compliance, we were able produce the first student-athlete handbook. for Howard Athletics.”

Following retirement from Howard, Williamson did not stop there as he began to play an active role in the Pigskin Club of Washington, first as member and later as president. Following the trend in his career, Williamson also helped expand the organization under his visionary guidance.

“The Pigskin Club is forever indebted to A.B. for his work with the organization,” said聽 Williams Chesley, who succeeded Williamson after he recently stepped down.聽 “Because of him, his vision and dedication, we were able to add a variety of sports where we rewarded young student-athletes.聽 He was also instrumental in the organization incorporating academic awards for the athletes. The Pigskin Club is a better place because of his vision.”

Ed Hill Jr., a contributing sports writer with The 最新麻豆影音视频, served as Howard University's director of communications from 1983-2017, earning recognition in the Howard University Athletics,...

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1 Comment

  1. A great article and a great man!

    David Whitehead, former player of AB Williamson. Known as Hollywood! AB developed a play called Hollywood! I came around a pick and received the ball for a jumper!

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