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Article updated: 12/19/2013 10:57 PM
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Williams, Sullivan paired for Hall of Fame honor
 

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Williams, Sullivan paired for Hall of Fame honor

Thinking alike about how basketball should be played was a big reason the coaching pairing of Bob Williams and Jim Sullivan was successful.

So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Williams and Sullivan have like-minded views about their induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in late April of 2014. To the point where their responses were eerily similar in separate conversations about their appreciation of the honor.

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"It's similar to winning the state championship," said Williams, who won the Class AA crown in 2001 at Schaumburg and is now continuing his successful career at Niles West. "I've never reflected on it much because I was in the middle of doing things.

"People always ask, did you expect to win the state championship and I would say no. I expected to win the next game, no matter when that next game was."

Sullivan also took Maine West to Peoria and a fourth-place AA finish in 1998, which turned out to be the end of a successful run there because of family reasons. But his love for the game didn't waver as he stayed in it as an assistant to Don Rowley at Hersey, with Williams at Schaumburg and now at Hoffman Estates for Luke Yanule.

And it's a long way from the small school of Oregon, about two hours west of Downtown Chicago, where Sullivan started his coaching career as an assistant to former Mundelein coach and IBCA Hall of Famer Denny Kessel.

"You don't enter it 35 years ago thinking about the Hall of Fame," laughed Sullivan, who will be retiring from teaching at Maine West after this school year. "I was just trying to win my next game as a freshman coach when I started."

Sullivan still wanted to keep coaching after his eight-year tenure in charge at Maine West ended. He helped Kessel with his instruction program in Lake County and was a volunteer assistant for Rowley at Hersey for a couple of years.

Williams had also talked about Sullivan joining his staff if the situation was right and a paid opening eventually materialized.

"We started as adversaries playing against each other for a number of years," Sullivan said. "When I stepped down at West he was one of the first people to call me. He said, 'When you're ready to go, I've got a seat on the bench for you.'"

Sullivan was part of Schaumburg's third AA Elite Eight trip to Peoria in 2006. And there was never any concern on Williams' part about working with a successful ex-head coach.

"It was a great combination and we worked very well together," said Williams, who won his 400th career game last season. "Neither of us cares who gets it done, as long as it gets done."

They've stayed close after Williams left Schaumburg and landed at Niles West in 2009. Sullivan initially stayed at Schaumburg but moved to Hoffman when Yanule got the job there in 2011.

For Williams and Sullivan, their honor did give them a chance to reflect on all the people who helped along the way.

Williams said he still uses some of the things he learned from Carl Wall and Lance Wolf, his high school coaches in Wahpeton, N.D. Working 11 years for Hall of Famer Ed Molitor at Palatine was also instrumental to his success.

The support of administrators such as Jack Gaza, John Selke and Sharon Cross at Schaumburg and Kevin Osborn, David Rosengard, Jason Ness and Kendall Griffin at Niles West has been invaluable. Mark Steger, the first assistant he hired at Schaumburg, is still working with Williams.

"One thing I've been very proud of is we've done a lot to try to help kids in all aspects of life," Williams said. "All of the teachers and staff members and assistants have been so helpful with that so everyone shares in this award. This award is for a whole lot of people doing a lot of great things for kids."

Sullivan looked back at getting a shot to be on the Maine West staff with Bob Goerne. When Goerne stepped aside he went to bat for Sullivan to get the job.

Feeder coach Walt Stancy was also a big factor, along with all of the assistants who worked with Sullivan.

"I'm flattered and humbled by the whole thing," said Sullivan, who still plans to continue coaching after retiring from teaching. "It takes a lot of people to get there and a lot of great players and coaches to make me look good. And that's not easy to make me look good."

What makes it even better is Sullivan and Williams -- along with Yanule's coach at Notre Dame, Denny Zelasko -- get to be part of the same IBCA Hall of Fame class.

"He wanted to go in with me and said we should go in together," Sullivan said.

"I'm happy for him ... it's awesome," Williams said. "He did an amazing job when we worked together. Everywhere he's been he wanted to help kids get better."

• Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at marty.maciaszek@gmail.com.

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