Max Williams

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Max Williams

Postby rlee » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:34 am

Small-town legend made mark on city

by Kevin Sherrington

When Max Williams was 7 or 8 years old, his family moved from Avoca to Guthrie, where the high school fit in one room and Max's sister rounded out the entire fifth grade.

No restrooms. No running water. No cafeteria. No gym.

No sports of any kind.

Just cowboys.

"I've often thought that if we'd stayed there," Williams said, "I guess I'd have been a roper."

Fortunately, after two years in the country, the family moved back to Avoca (Uh-VOE-kuh), a half-hour due north of Abilene. With a population of 150, too small even to field a six-man football team, Avoca wasn't exactly Las Vegas, either. But the school had a superintendent who liked basketball. Rarely has destiny done more with less.

After Williams' father died, the superintendent, G.E. Hastings, also the basketball coach, gave 13-year-old Max a key to the gym. Williams worked tirelessly on his game, until it resembled something he'd mimicked from a magician named Marques Haynes.

Not only did Williams learn to dribble between his legs and pass behind his back and shoot one-handed, all but unheard of in the '50s, his coach allowed him to do it in games.

Maybe not so coincidentally, Williams led little Avoca to the Class B state title as a junior and finished as the state's career leading scorer with 3,360 points.

He played with the same flair at SMU. Diving out of bounds to save a loose ball against Kentucky, Williams found himself sprawled at the feet of the Wildcats' legendary coach.

"Boy," Adolph Rupp said, peering down at the 5-10 dervish, "what chili parlor did they get you out of?"

Wanting to make some money after college, Williams didn't give pre-TV NBA much thought. But he would make a mark on pro ball, nonetheless.

Hearing of a new league coming, he approached Bobby Folsom, a fellow SMU alum, who hatched a plan to bring the ABA to Dallas: solicit the $300,000 franchise fee from 30 Dallas businessmen at $10,000 a pop.

Thus was born the Dallas Chaparrals, with Williams as director of operations, ticket manager, assistant coach, whatever. He even provided the club its first prospects list.

Unfortunately, the general manager failed to realize Williams' list was in alphabetical order, not by ranking.

The Chaps' luck ran pretty much the same until they moved to San Antonio and became the Spurs. Meanwhile, Williams remained in Dallas, where he made a fortune in real estate and oil and gas.

Now 71, he's going into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame next month, a surprise, he says, because he hasn't played basketball in 50 years or coached it in nearly 40. Even still, his odds could have been worse. He could have been a cowboy.
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