Mo Williams Seated in the front row of the Jackson State Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center in a navy blue tracksuit and flip-up hat. It’s a place both familiar and relaxed for him, having grown up here in Jackson.
Twenty years after he left for Tuscaloosa to play college basketball in Alabama, Williams is back as a coach at Jackson State Where he met his parents.
It was known for years that he wanted to train, as he preferred to take the sabbatical during his 13-year career in the NBA.
Once the season is over, he said, he’ll take a flight to Dallas, where he’s been living in the off-season. He wanted to spend time in the gym training his sons. It was a way for him to ensure he was able to spend a lot of time with them after a difficult NBA season.
“Men like me in the NBA were doing a lot of things like going to the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, wherever they were, for vacation,” Williams said. “My vacation was on the way home and being in the gym. I didn’t take many vacations when the year was over, so it was something I really enjoyed. The most important part is that my kids love it.”
Those experiences in the gym and on the AAU circuit sparked a passion for coaching in Williams, who won the NBA title in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was a star in the NBA in 2009. He spent two seasons as an assistant in Northern California. and two seasons as a head coach at Alabama State.
He is also the father of seven sons ranging in age from 6 months to 23 years.
“I love him,” Williams said. “It’s a blessing.” “I tell people all the time that I have seven boys and they’re like ‘Oh, that’s a blessing.’ To me it is. Having all the boys who will bear your name and eventually start their own families. The Williams dynasty will be here to stay for a long time.”
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His eldest son, Kydarrius, dreams of following in his footsteps as a college basketball coach and will join his staff at JSU as a graduation assistant after graduating from Alabama this summer.
“I’ve been around basketball my whole life and being a coach and having the chance to learn from it, that’s going to be a huge part of the journey,” said Kedarius Williams. “Not only was he a role model to me when he played basketball, now as I try to become a coach and start my journey, I see him start his coaching journey from the beginning as well. It’s like we’re in this together.”
As someone who’s been a father for more than half his life, Williams said one of the biggest things he’s learned is how to appreciate the little moments in life that he once took for granted. He focused on instilling discipline in his children and teaching them as much as possible about life and basketball. But he also savors the moments when they can relax and have a good time.
“My kids are competitive,” Williams said. “But, man, listen. We have the goal in the yard. We’re there in the back, but we do other things too, whether it’s soccer or sitting in front of Uno. They play video games and always want to in a 2K tournament and beat me to sleep. We have time together.”
Williams seeks to play a practical, protective role in his children’s lives because that’s what his father did for him.
“My dad was the most important part of my career,” Williams said. “That’s why I am who I am with my boys, for being the most important part of their football career. Nothing happened without my dad. Nobody could talk about me or about me if my dad wasn’t involved. He always made sure I was in the right situations.”
His father, Isaiah Williams, coached the area’s junior baseball team for more than two decades. The elder Williams, a JSU graduate, says he started taking Williams to soccer games in Jackson State at the age of six. He is happy to have his son back in Jackson to train at JSU.
He has instilled discipline and a strong work ethic in his three sons through house chores.
“It was part of what they had to do. It was never a free ride. If you want it, you have to go work for it. It’s not going to be a gift to her, you’re going to have it because you earned it,” Isaiah Williams said.
Moving into sports, Williams distinguished himself by getting up at 5 a.m. to work out at the YMCA on Fortification Street. As he looks to make his mark in his first season as a basketball coach at JSU, Williams will teach the same work ethic to his players.
“I know where I want to be. I know what I want to achieve,” Williams said. “I know it is going to take what I call extra time: you have to go further. That is the goal I set for myself to be great at coaching and get these kids to understand what it takes to be great human beings and great basketball players.”