Longtime Roaring Fork basketball coach Larry Williams calls it a career
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Just two years after retiring from teaching, Larry “Shorty” Williams is calling it a career as a basketball coach.
A staple on the boys’ sideline for the last 11 seasons in Carbondale, Williams epitomized everything that was Roaring Fork High School basketball.
But, due to the time commitment needed to continue to coach at a high level, Williams decided to step away from his post last week, ending a total of 27 years as a basketball coach for the boys and girls programs in Carbondale.
Williams, a Roaring Fork graduate, was on the sideline as an assistant coach for the Roaring Fork girls’ three straight state championships from 1989 to 1991, and later served as head coach for the girls team. He took over the boys’ program after former coach Roger Walters resigned, promoting Williams from the C-team to the varsity head coaching position.
After so many years of spending time each day in gymnasiums, on buses and in meetings trying to improve the Rams, Williams wants to settle down and enjoy family time.
“It just got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying going to open gyms and camps in the summer,” said Williams. “I used to love that stuff, but it’s just a major time commitment.
“I still love the kids and I love coaching, but after 27 years it just became too much.”
Aside from working roughly 30 hours a week at his part-time job, Williams said he hopes to get back into some duck and pheasant hunting. He also wants to spend more time watching his grandkids play basketball and other sports, now that he’s stepping away from the varsity program.
void to fill
“He and I had been talking about it,” said Jade Bath, Roaring Fork’s athletic director who also played for the Rams when she was in high school.
“It was kind of one of those things that I was hoping wasn’t true,” she added. “I just respect him so much and enjoy working with him. I looked up to him when I was little. It’s hard for me (to see him retire) because a part of Roaring Fork is leaving.
“It’s more than just basketball when you’re talking about Shorty. He truly bleeds blue and gold and loves everything about this school.”
In the past 11 seasons as the head coach of the Rams’ boys program, Williams won three 3A Western Slope League Coach of the Year awards.
In that same 11-season span, Williams compiled a record of 141-91 (.607 winning percentage), including a league record of 87-45 (.659 winning percentage) in 11 seasons, winning a league championship in 2012-13 when he helped lead the Rams to a 20-4 (15-1 3A WSL) record, reaching the second round of the 3A state playoffs.
Williams has always had the Rams near the top of the league standings, making for a tough out each night in a loaded conference.
“His first year as a head coach was my first year as a head coach, so we’ve always had to go against him,” said Coal Ridge High School head coach Paul Harvey. “He’s a class act, hard worker and a tremendous coach.
“It’s a huge loss for our league. His teams were always ones you wanted to play earlier in the year because they were going to improve late in the year due to coaching.”
The news of Williams retiring from coaching spread fast and seemed to take the league by surprise, which says quite a bit about the impact he’s had on the game of basketball and how revered he is within the basketball community on the Western Slope.
“I’m kind of surprised he’s retiring, honestly,” Harvey added. “I just really got the sense from him that he was going to keep going and going as the boys coach. But his influence is all over the town. He’s done a tremendous job with that program from the top down, and you can see that with the young kids they have coming. Carbondale has a rich history of basketball, and Larry’s right there in the middle of it.”
After so many seasons coaching basketball, Williams has had a chance to impact a number of lives. Now that he’s stepping away and reflecting, he hopes there’s a message that consistently got across from his coaching methods that’s stuck with players after they’ve moved on from the program.
“The message that I hope got across was things that we preach every day: work ethic, always try your best, and to be a good person and do what’s right,” Williams said. “Do something for each other. Whether it’s a job or it’s a team, you’re a part of something bigger. I just hope that the kids took it to heart and it carries over into their marriages, life as parents, or whatever comes next for them.”
finding a good fit
Although he’s officially retiring from coaching, Williams said that it will be hard to stay away from the game completely. Depending on who the new head coach is, Williams hopes he’ll get the chance to step in and help the new guy when he can, but added that there’s a fine line there where you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
“You want it to be the new guy’s program, so it’s important to be careful there,” Williams added.
Bath said that the coaching position is posted and is open to any and all applicants, but that the program hopes to select the right person not only for the program, but for the community, as well.
“It’s hard to try and fill the shoes Shorty is leaving,” said Bath. “This program deserves a good head coach to follow him. Hopefully we can find that coach, get through the transition period, and keep up that tradition of Roaring Fork boys basketball.”
The long drives to Denver to play competitive club softball and fine-tune her skills during the offseason are paying off for Glenwood Springs High School senior Kiera Larson.