July 8, 2020

Leaving PDS After Superb 9-Year Run as AD, Williams Heading to Midwest with Fond Memories

SPECIAL RUN: Tim Williams makes a point to his Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team in 2016 during its run to the state Prep B title. Williams coached the squad for several seasons in addition to his role as the school’s Director of Upper School Athletics. After a nine-year run as the PDS AD, Williams is leaving the school to take the same position at the University School of Milwaukee. During Williams’ Panther tenure, PDS teams won 33 county and state Prep championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Speaking in the Southern drawl of his native Tennessee, Tim Williams may have seemed out of place when he came north in 2011 to become the new Director of Upper School Athletics at the Princeton Day School.

But it didn’t take long for the genial Williams to develop a rapport with his new colleagues.

“You come to a new school and you are not sure exactly what you are going to get,” said Williams, who had been the athletic director and boys’ basketball head coach at the Louisville Collegiate School before taking the PDS job.

“The coaches seemed to trust me tentatively to begin with and then they really came to be close. I was close to them and vice versa. We were able to really work in concert together and get the best out of the kids and get the best out of the teams.”

In addition, Williams quickly became close to the PDS student-athletes.

“I love the kids, that is why I got into this business at the start,” said Williams.

“I love going out to the games and practices and bantering back and forth. My favorite thing is when the kids come back after they have been at college for a year or a couple of years. They come back and stop by your office just to say hi and let you know how they are doing. I think it is a telltale sign that it is a real healthy program.”

This month, Williams is heading to another program as he will become the new athletic director at the University School of Milwaukee.

For Williams, 50, the move came down to a family decision for his wife, Kristin and their three children, Betsy, Ben, and Bailey.

“We thought it was time to get closer to family; we thought we might go south when this popped up in the Midwest and we realized it was so close to Kristin’s family in Indianapolis,” said Williams.

“Kristin’s family heard that we were thinking of it and her dad called up the visitor’s bureau of Milwaukee and sent me maps and materials.”

Scott Bertoli, the PDS director of Middle School Athletics and boys’ hockey head coach, grew close to Williams over the years.

“He is obviously a warm, friendly Southern guy; he was open and receptive to things and had been working both within our athletic program and in the greater community,” said Bertoli.

“He wasn’t someone who was going to step in and implement change or put his stamp on the program. Over time, he made some changes and adjustments for the better, both for our coaches and our athletes. Personally he encouraged me to seek more professional development opportunities through the NIAAA  (National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association).”

Bertoli credit Williams with being flexible in dealing with issues that arose along the way.

“Tim was always open to collaborate and share thoughts,” added Bertoli.

“We struggled through some difficult times with the whole array of issues that come up on a daily basis, the success of teams, admissions, and trying to create the quality across the programs.”

The best times for Williams came when he got out of the office and was out in the fields and courts with the Panther athletes.

“He is very endearing; he was at the sidelines of a whole slew of games, including some of the sports that weren’t as popular or visible,” said Bertoli.

“He would show up at those sports and support those kids. At the end of the day, he knew that those kids put in the same effort and were just as passionate about their sports. It is just as important and meaningful to those kids, even though it is not as visible as some more high profile sports at PDS, in the county or the state.”

Reflecting his interest in developing those kids, Williams created programs to help athletes grow in other areas.

“One of the things that he implemented and did a really nice job with was this whole student leadership piece, meeting on a bi-weekly basis with our captains of our upper school programs,” said Bertoli.

“He ultimately created the “Panthers Are…” workshop that all of our upper school athletes and some of our middle school athletes attended. We brought in guest speakers, one fall we had Ron Fogarty (the Princeton University men’s hockey head coach). Another time we had six Princeton athletes who came on campus and addressed our student athletes about what it meant to be a student athlete and a visible member of that community and what those responsibilities were above and beyond your performance and character on the field. That was important because he wanted our student athletes to be positive ambassadors for PDS and their teams.”

The Panthers enjoyed plenty of on-field success during Williams’ tenure as PDS squads have won 33 county and state Prep championships over the last nine years.

“Under his direction, a number of our teams have had a ton of success,” said Bertoli.

“It speaks to the quality of the coaches and the student athletes. At the end of the day, he is one that is going out, finding and identifying most of those coaches and supporting them as they work with families through the admission process.”

For Williams, one of those titles holds a special place in his heart as he served as the head coach of PDS boys’ hoops team that won the state Prep B championship in the 2015-16 campaign.

“When I was in Louisville, we started off struggling quite a bit and built a really good program over about nine years,” recalled Williams.

“When I came to PDS, the program was already pretty successful. I was happy to be able to join in on that and take them to the next level. I don’t think they had won since 1999. We had been close, sometimes the stars just have to line up. It has been tough moving away from coaching but the fact that we were able to put that exclamation point at the end of the sentence has made it more easy for me to not coach.”

As he moved away from coaching, Williams kept busy by providing input in the construction of the school’s new Athletics Center.

“I was happy to be involved from the inception of the planning part; it has been quite an undertaking,” said Williams of the facility which is connected to and surrounding McGraw Rink and will hold four international squash courts, a field house with two all-purpose athletic courts, changing rooms, offices, and concessions.

“People have asked are you sad that you won’t be able to use it and I say no I am happy that it is there and that I was able to have some design influence on what we need and where things should go that kind of stuff. It is an on the ground perspective — where the locker rooms should be and the training room, equipment rooms, things that you don’t think about that are really pivotal. I was able to help out on how we use the spaces.”

Over the years, Williams exerted influence beyond PDS, taking an active role in state and local athletic organizations.

“I have really grown close with a lot of folks in the state through the NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association) or WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic), and Mercer County,” said Williams, who served as the head of WIHLMA and ran the MCT boys’ and girls’ tennis tournaments.

“I am a relationship person and that is part of the relationship thing because you know the public/private stuff flares up every few years. If you have the relationships with those ADs, that really helps. They know you do it the right way,  that you get involved and that you help out so they stick with you.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic having led to schools being closed in March and the spring sports season being canceled, Williams has missed being around the folks at PDS.

“It was tough just staying in touch with everybody,” said Williams.

“I liked being out and seeing the kids and the coaches every day at practices or games. That is just wiped out. I got to see people a couple of times a week on Zoom calls. It is one thing staring at them in a screen versus seeing them in the hallway and talking to them, patting them on the back and seeing them at a game.”

That separation was not what Williams envisioned as he contemplated saying his goodbyes to PDS.

“It has definitely been hard not seeing people,” said Williams, noting that the school held a graduation parade where he was looking to see some people.

“That has been the hardest to me, not being able to see folks. I was at school recently and people were saying where are you going again. They just don’t know because I hadn’t been around and hadn’t been able to talk to them.”

Williams has been able to talk to his successor, Katie Fay, who came to PDS in 2009 as the associate director of the Annual Fund and became the director of Annual Giving in 2010. 

“We have been meeting once or twice a week,” said Williams.

“I have put her in touch with the Mercer County and the NJSIAA people. She is already getting her feet wet with the whole thing. She is great. She is a hard worker and really cares about the school.”

In the meantime, Williams is looking forward to getting his feet wet at his new school.

“It is a very similar place to PDS; it has got great ice hockey and it has got great sports,” said Williams’ noting that the USM Head of School Steve Hancock was a former PDS colleague and played a key role in bringing Williams to the Midwest.

“It is a little bit bigger. They really care about what they do. I am excited to work with those people over there because, like PDS, they pursue excellence. I am really interested in that. Their programs are in a really strong place.”

Even though Williams and his family aren’t slated to arrive in Wisconsin before mid-July, he already has a lot on his plate.

“You have got the normal challenges like getting to know the school culture a little better, learning the Wisconsin Athletics Administration, how the state wide thing goes, that kind of thing,” said Williams.

“This COVID thing throws a new layer and level of complications into transitioning because Wisconsin has summer contact days for a week in July to practice together and we are trying to pull together procedures for that.”

Looking back on his time at PDS, Williams will always cherish how things came together in his initial foray up north.

“I want to say thank you to the folks at PDS for allowing me to be here,” said Williams.

“The families, the coaches, the people in the athletic office and the administrators have been really great. It makes it tough to leave. I hit the ground running when I got here and it has been great ever since. There are always rocky times but we have gotten through them together. It has been a good run.”