Willis Wilson was head coach at Rice for 16 seasons. This past March, after the Owls went 3-27, Coach Wilson was let go.
Despite the challenges of coaching at Rice -- strict academic standards, a small budget, substandard facilities -- Coach Wilson won 216 games at the school.
In an article in yesterday's Houston paper, Coach Wilson shared his thoughts on coaching:
-- On how the first few games of the year can impact the season: "This is that time where a win or a loss just changes your whole persona. You lose a game or two early in the season, and all of a sudden you’re trying to fix something that maybe really never was broke. But the reality is that as a head coach, your responsibility is to put everything into trying to be successful. And you’re being judged for it. So there’s this internal pressure that you have to fix something. You try to fix things that maybe aren’t fixable."
-- On what getting fired does to a coach: "When you get terminated from a job — any job — you lose confidence in yourself. You lose confidence in your decisions, who you are, what you’ve accomplished. Jeff Van Gundy (former Rockets coach) told me that, and that was something that was really helpful for me. You hear about players losing confidence all the time.
Coaches lose confidence, too. You lose confidence when things don’t turn out the way you want them to. You lose confidence when you do all the right things for all the right reasons and still get fired. You have to come to this understanding that you just don’t have control over everything. And sometimes you don’t have control over the things that are most important to you."
-- On how coaching can become all-encompassing: "It was sobering to realize how many guys in this profession are doing things they either accept or don’t like or really have a strong disdain for. It’s a cycle you get caught up in. There’s a whole other world going on out there, and as a coach you really don’t realize how consumed you are by it until you get out of it."
-- On how being out of coaching has allowed him to learn more about himself: "I know I’m a good husband. I know I’m a good father. Call it ego or whatever you want, but I know I’m a very, very good coach. Doesn’t mean I’m going to be as successful as somebody who lands at the right program where they have the right players. And that doesn’t bother me. For a long time, that did bother me. It bothered me to not have the resources and do the best job you can and it not be enough.
I think there just comes a point where you have to do what’s right and not worry about somebody judging you. You just have to know you’re going to make some wrong decisions, and you’re going to make them right. Just like you tell your players every day: You play through it. You play above it. You play above your mistakes."