Sports Odds & Ends
Andrea Williams has coached at all three NCAA Division levels over her nearly 30-year career. Her latest stop is Chicago State, who hired her in July to coach the Cougars women’s basketball team.
“We are going to compete,” predicted Williams in an MSR interview before CSU embarks on a two-game Twin Cities swing next week, beginning at Williams Arena against the host Gophers Dec. 12, then moving to St. Paul to play at University of St. Thomas Dec. 14. “We are going to do our best and show up in that environment.”
Williams began her coaching career at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (1995-97), then as head coach at Division II Waynesburg (Pa.) University (1997-99). She also held assistant coaching positions at Oakland University (2016-19) and Purdue Fort Wayne (2015-16), South Florida (2008-10), Jacksonville University (2004-08), the U.S. Naval Academy (2002-04), and the University of Tampa (1999-2002).
Her HC experience came at Fort Valley State for three years (2019-21) and six seasons at U.S. Air Force Academy (2010-15). Williams might be the first Black woman to coach at two of the country’s military training colleges.
“Basketball has taken me many places,” said the Indiana native. Williams graduated from Vincennes University (associate degree) and Edinboro University (B.S. degree in physical education). Her first post-college job was in teaching, but when offered a coaching job by her former coach, Williams jumped at the opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.
Chicago State is a historically Black public university located on the city’s South Side. In recent years the school has been struggling as a women’s hoops program. The challenge of turning things around, of returning to a Division I school back in the Midwest was just too much to pass up, Williams said.
“It’s a big challenge turning it in the right direction,” she admitted. “We want to recruit Chicago as best as we can, then the state of Illinois. We like to keep home-grown talent home.”
Williams is the second of five Black female head coaches that Minnesota will face this season. “I’ve been in coaching for 20-some years,” she pointed out.
“You got to be good role models. We are trying to show that there is a spot in this sport [for Blacks to coach] on the bench. I’m willing to take this program to a level it hasn’t had.”
CSU men’s coach
The Chicago State men’s basketball team is scheduled to play Minnesota on Dec. 22. The Chicago-based HBCU is the only school this season where both its basketball teams will play in Williams Arena and both head coaches are Black.
We talked to CSU Men’s Coach Gerald Gillion after his Cougars played at St. Thomas Nov. 11. In his second year, Gillion previously was an assistant at Samford for a season, then at Tennessee Tech (2017-19). He also was a program director at a top-ranked AAU team (2019-20).
Gillion began his coaching career in high school (2008-13) and entered college coaching at Florida International (2013-14) as director of basketball operations, then as special assistant to the head coach at South Florida (2014-17).
“We got to be able to put things together for 40 minutes, start to finish,” stressed Gillion after the loss to the host team. He pointed out that his squad is young—seven sophomores, six freshmen, three juniors and a senior on this year’s roster.
“We want to make sure that people understand that we’re looking forward to winning on and off the court,” noted Gillion. “We want to develop young men to be able to be successful both on and off the court. We’re gonna continue to strive to do that every single day.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.