At 6 feet, 7 inches tall, Terry Williams stands out in a crowd. And in the world of Salem-Keizer sports, based on what he has given back to the community, Terry also is a towering figure. But you wouldn’t know it because, for all of his accomplishments, Williams keeps his honors in boxes, preferring instead to focus on his Christian faith and coaching his players with love and consistency.
Williams has lived in the Salem area for well over 50 years. Born in Spokane, Washington in 1952, he later moved to Billings, Montana, where he spent his first four years of grade school. His family then moved again, to Beaverton. He was now in Oregon, where he would stay. Williams graduated from Sunset High School. He competed there, at various times, in football, track, baseball, and basketball. He was a third team all-Metro League basketballer for the Apollos.
From Sunset High Terry moved on to the now-defunct Judson Baptist College in Portland and, subsequently, to Western Baptist College (now Corban University) in Salem, where he continued his athletic career playing both basketball and baseball. At Judson Baptist, Williams was second team all-conference in hoops for both his freshman and sophomore years and then honorable mention-NAIA All-District 2 as both a Western Baptist junior and senior. A high-flying scholar as well, Terry was also selected to the all-region academic team. And, appropriately enough, the always enthusiastic Williams was chosen as the most inspirational player for the Warriors’ basketball and baseball squads.
Terry graduated from Western Baptist in 1974. He was good enough as a baseball player to be encouraged to try out in the California Angels baseball organization. He considered it but opted instead to marry his wife Debby and in his own words “move on with life.”
While Terry and Debby did settle into family life, raising two sons - Matt and Joel - and a daughter – Allison - along the way, sports remained central to both of their lives. Terry stayed active in local adult basketball where he had considerable success at both state and national levels. Slow pitch softball was also a big part of both 0f their lives through the Salem Church League program – Debby as a player and Terry, ultimately, named president of the organization. Together – a term used often when speaking of Terry and Debby - they played on a co-ed team in a division established under Terry's watch. He also played on a city league team connected with First Baptist Church that won both city and state class B softball titles before advancing to the regional tournament in Santa Clara, California. Athletics, obviously, have run deep in the Williams' makeup.
As the Williams family grew older, Terry’s attention, as happens with so many parents, moved from his own sports career to his children’s exploits. This is where Terry began to move from a very good athlete in his own right to a Beacon. This is where he began to change the lives of a much, much larger group. He became a force in youth sports as he worked to develop opportunities for kids, coach those kids, and also to administer the programs to insure kids were the primary beneficiaries.
It began with early involvement in the Keizer Soccer Club. Terry was one of the early coaches when KSC was young. He helped develop soccer teams that played “club”, which people referred to as traveling teams. The Oregon Games included indoor soccer. So Williams formed teams that played indoor soccer. They traveled to Portland and Oregon City to play and eventually indoor soccer made its way to Salem.
Basketball, always a part of the Williams DNA, also came front and center. He began coaching basketball at Whiteaker Middle School before the Salem-Keizer School District dropped the program. He then worked with longtime high school coaches Larry Gahr of McNary and Barry Adams of South Salem to create an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball program for middle schoolers so they could get more games and a higher level of competition outside the Salem-Keizer area. The program they developed eventually morphed into today’s SKYBALL. Williams also helped to establish the Keizer Youth Basketball Association, giving kids in grades one through six the opportunity to develop their skills.
But Williams hasn't rested on his laurels as it pertains to youth basketball development. Just eight years ago he helped to establish a youth program for girls in West Salem, expanding the original program that had been limited to boys. The program teaches players as young as third grade. Players from that first season – eight years ago – were part of West Salem High School's very first OSAA quarterfinals appearance in Portland this past spring.
To say Terry has been “kid-centric” would be to understate what he has meant to Salem-Keizer. He has had a hand in setting up Keizer Youth Volleyball, an elementary school flag football program, and the mid-Valley Monarchs, which provided spring prep basketball games for middle and high school girls. He also either ran or assisted at a long list of basketball clinics in the local area.
Williams has coached locally for upwards of 44 years. He became knows to a much wider audience in the area when he served as the very successful women's basketball coach at his alma mater - Western Baptist University. In two stints at the current Corban University where he is the winningest coach in school history, Williams compiled 240 victories. He took the Warriors to nine straight national tournaments from 1994-2013. It was a position he loved but one from which he was forced to step down twice – in 2002 and again in 2013 - due to health issues.
Williams' success with the Warriors program was almost immediate. In his first season – '94-95 - Western Baptist won the National Christian College Athletic Association basketball championship, defeating impressive opponents along the way. The team’s surprising finish landed Williams National Coach of the Year honors. The team successfully repeated its national championship, and Terry was again named Coach of the Year, for the 1995-96 campaign. The players and program were definitely in sync with the man they affectionately referred to as “T-DUBB.”
Williams was forced to temporarily step aside at Corban in 2002 due to illness. Illness or not, he stayed involved in basketball, serving one season as an assistant to his daughter, Allison, who was then the girls varsity coach and a teacher at Sprague High School in Salem, followed by a season with Salem Academy’s eighth grade girls team. He then returned to the Warrior program in 2007, serving as head coach for another six seasons before finally wrapping up his Corban coaching career.
Relaxation and Terry Williams have a hard time coinciding. In 2014, Williams was again called to serve as a head basketball coach - this time at the helm of the West Salem High girls program. He remained with the Titans for three seasons, accumulating a record of 46-28, and three state playoff appearances.
Fittingly, Terry handed over the West Salem coaching job to one of his former college players - Katie Steigleman Singleton, Corban’s all-time leading scorer and leader of the team that advanced to the NAIA Division 2 Sweet 16 in 2012. Singleton guided West to its most successful basketball run in school history this past season – its first OSAA Elite-8 tournament appearance.
Again unable to say “no”, Williams was lured back to coaching on a more limited basis. He assisted with middle school boys basketball - first at Blanchet and then at South Salem. COVID seemingly brought Williams' coaching career to an end. But the end for Terry was only temporary.
The Athletic Director at Crosshill Christian High in South Salem contacted Williams and asked him to take over the girls basketball team. The Eagles were starting from scratch, where Williams is at his best. In his first season Crosshill Christian finished out of the playoff picture in fourth place, but the team still wrapped up the schedule in the top half of the standings. For his efforts, Williams was named Casco League Coach of the Year. In season two, Crosshill did what Williams' teams always seem to do – win, qualifying for the playoffs.
Throughout the past two decades Williams has continued his involvement with kids while dealing with significant, and frequently very painful, health conditions. And while his Eagles team still has a bright future, whether Terry is physically able to continue to coach is unknown. But guess what? He has made plans to coach over the summer.
Despite an overwhelming body of evidence indicating success, Williams is reluctant to sing his own praises. Instead, he prefers to preach about developing the total person of each player he coaches. “Competitive basketball teaches the importance of teamwork, discipline, respect for authority, sportsmanship, and the importance of priorities as they relate to athletics and other aspects of life.” He aims to influence physical, mental, and even the spiritual aspects of each of his players.
Terry and Debby have been married 50 years this coming June 9th, 2023. Matt, Joel, and Allison have given them nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Could Williams eventually coach them? Don't count him out!
In a world that measures success in wins and losses, Terry Williams has embraced another mission. He has lived a life for young people - providing opportunities for them, coaching them, and caring for them. He has made sports what they should always be - events that refine the lives of the players involved. Because he has been a force in changing lives through sport, he is a Beacon.
Well done, Terry Williams. Well done.