Williams deserved a better fate

Patrick Newell

Here’s a small piece of Patrick Newell trivia: The absolute first game I ever attended as the sports editor of The Evening Sun was a late-August soccer game in 1995 at Bainbridge-Guilford. One of my high school friends, Kevin Perez, was head coach of the Norwich girls, and being an eager rookie reporter, I trekked over the back road to Guilford and on to Bainbridge to catch the game.
I witnessed a couple of impressive athletes that day, and my first flip throw-in. One of the girls on the B-G team seemed incredibly quick and a step or two faster than everyone else on the field. I found out later her name was Danielle Baldwin. I would come to know Baldwin a lot better throughout the school year as she was one of the preeminent athletes in Section IV, and a couple of years ago, was inducted into the Section IV Athletic Hall of Fame.
I sidled up near the Norwich bench, and extended an in-game nod toward Perez, who gave me a big smile and a hello before resuming his coaching duties. After the game – and I believe it was a one-goal win for B-G – I made my way over to the Bobcats’ bench to introduce myself to their head coach, George Williams.
Williams was welcoming and seemed genuinely pleased to have me attend the game. I think he was more surprised than anything else. It wasn’t too often an Evening Sun sports reporter – or any other local news reporter – was over in Bainbridge covering an early-season soccer game.
It was at that point I established my longtime working relationship with Williams, who was nothing short of professional, well prepared, and above all humble. For 15 seasons we worked together, and after last season, he was the only girls’ soccer coach from my first year who was still coaching.
I called George’s house about four weeks ago to inquire about his team. He wasn’t available, so like I do with everyone else I miss by phone, I left a message for him to call me back. I had no reason to think he wasn’t coaching, and he gave no indication last year that he was planning to give up the job. George returned my call, and unfortunately I was not available. His message said that he was no longer coaching, and it wasn’t his choice to leave. He asked me to call him back when I had time so that he could fill me in on the details of his departure.
I will spare readers all of the intimate details, but to summarize, the school district reposted the varsity girls’ soccer coach position as it always does, and instead of rubber-stamping the incumbent coach – who had 21 years on the job – it went through an interview process. Williams applied for the job as did at least one other person, and the interview committee decided to “go in a new direction.”
Williams was extremely disappointed by the committee’s decision, and admitted that several weeks and months after he learned his fate, he was still hurting. For me, I’ve lost a true professional who loved what he did, and his passion for soccer made my job a lot easier. I’ll get to speak to George in the spring when he coaches the boys’ tennis team, a squad he has led 35 years. George Williams is and remains a class act, and as the person who started the girls’ soccer program at B-G, deserved a better fate.