Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Corliss ready for NBA return
Central Arkansas coach Corliss Williamson gestures during the first half against UNLV in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Gurzinski)
When Corliss Williamson walked quietly away from the NBA in 2019, he did it without fanfare.
“Big Nasty” on the court is “Mr Private” off it, but now we know he did it for his family, especially his son Creed, who was going to be a freshman at Little Rock Christian.
Now four years later, Creed has graduated from high school and is headed to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock to play basketball and get his education this fall.
It is not a coincidence Williamson wanted his son at UALR. He and Trojans Coach Darrell Walker are close friends, and Walker spent 10 years playing in the NBA and another 25 coaching. He knows the woes of an NBA life.
Williamson, a native of Russellville, was a two-time All-American for the Arkansas Razorbacks, helping them to the 1994 national championship. He was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four.
In 1995, the Razorbacks finished runner-up to UCLA, who spent most of the game triple-teaming Arkansas’ leading scorer and at times dropping a fourth defender down to help.
In Williamson’s three seasons with Arkansas, the Hogs were 85-19.
His reputation as a nice guy off the court began long before he became known as Big Nasty.
Once after an AAU championship. he took the MVP medal from around his neck and put it around that of Dion Cross, who Williamson thought deserved it more.
His parents, Bettye and Jerry Williamson, may not be together now, but they were always on the same page about parenting Williams, who spent numerous hours working in his dad’s cleaning service.
In the eighth grade, he became a household name when sportscaster Steve Sullivan captured him on video shattering a backboard on a dunk.
Earlier that season, he sat out a few weeks, grounded by Bettye, who was unhappy with one C grade, and took him out of basketball until he raised it to a B.
As a Razorback, Williamson was immensely popular with the fans for his intensity on the court and cordiality off it, spending long minutes posing for pictures and signing autographs.
In 1995 he was the No. 13 pick in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, where he played until 2000 when he took free agency and signed with Toronto and a season later with Detroit.
With the Pistons, he won NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors and helped win the NBA championship over the Shaquille O’Neal- and Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
Williamson finished his 12-year NBA career with Philadelphia and Sacramento before retiring.
He spent two years as an assistant coach at Arkansas Baptist College, the third as head coach and then became the head coach at the University of Central Arkansas for three seasons.
He left to become an assistant coach at Sacramento for three seasons, two with the Orlando Magic and then a season with the Phoenix Suns.
Williamson’s name was already being mentioned for head coaching jobs and he appeared to be a season or two away from being a head coach in the NBA.
He weighed all his options, which was one: Return home.
It was announced late last week that Williamson had accepted an assistant’s job with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Whether or not he can pick up where he left off remains to be seen, but his work ethic and popularity among the players will still be strong.
Williamson, of course, has no regrets. As usual, he did what he was supposed to when he was supposed to, and now it is time to resume his career.
Williamson, who looks like he could still play, will be a great addition to a team that was 42-40 last season and looking to make a Big Nasty leap forward.
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