Smith Houses Basketball Court Renamed for Coach and Mentor Michael Williams
The Smith Houses basketball court was reborn Saturday afternoon as Coach Michael C. Williams Court.
Parks Department, elected officials and their representatives, community leaders, and residents alike celebrated the renaming in honor of a local hero and inspiration to many.
Williams was a resident of the Smith Houses who rose above the poverty and rough-and-tumble street culture of gang life to graduate college. He recognized the shortage of activities available to inner city kids, and in response, helped organize basketball games for neighborhood youth. Teaching them, through sport, valuable life lessons.
Professionally, he served as Assistant Head Coach at both Fordham and Columbia between 1977 to 1980. During this time, he and Kenny Graham co-founded the West 4th pro-classic basketball tournament, which remains a legendary jumpoff point for amateur players. (It just celebrated forty years.) He relocated to the University of Colorado in 1980 for the Head Coach position. Ten years later, Williams returned to the city and became the Athletic Director at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. Through it all, Smith Houses residents fondly remember him making time to return to his roots and mentor the local youth.
When Williams passed away three years ago, his friend Tony Harris conceived the idea of renaming the Smith Houses basketball court after him. Convincing the Parks Department to fall in line wasn’t easy, though. Harris linked up with area activist Karlin Chan who petitioned and obtained more than 900 signature of support. In the end, it took lots of hounding over a three-year period.