Life can be cruel.
Life can be cruel.
It certainly was for former Fort Osage High School girls basketball coach Dale Williams.
A Jan. 1 fall at his home led to his death on Jan. 30.
I’ve written about prep sports for 53 years at The Examiner. Obviously, I’ve met and written about many outstanding coaches, administrators, officials, parents and athletes.
Williams is on my all-time top-10 list of human beings.
I was attracted by his humor, integrity and intelligence. We had many great conversations over the years. He also was an outstanding coach, as over 500 victories would attest.
He often said I was his favorite sportswriter. I guess it was because of my wacky sense of humor and fondness for high school sports or any sport as long it wasn’t considered a life and death matter. I told him I knew of no one who shot himself because his favorite high school team lost.
For years when we met, usually at a basketball game, he referred to me as "Big Dick." I responded by calling him "Big Dale." After all, I am a whopping 5-foot-10 and he was about 5-5.
Each year, Dale held a Christmas party at the school for his freshman, junior varsity and varsity players. One year he received a puppy he, would you believe, named Jump Shot.
His divorce many years ago from an educator who moved to Iowa forced Dale to live alone until his untimely death. But he was never lost for companionship because of his many friends. And there was always the main love of his life, basketball. He continued to attend Fort Osage games after his retirement.
Dale could do a good job criticizing officials. But I never heard him swear, not even to his players.
Health-wise, the later years were not kind to him. He underwent liver and kidney transplants.
He coached teams in Missouri, Iowa and Kansas. He has received numerous honors and awards, which he deserved. He is a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
He started the girls basketball program at North Kansas City High School. But he had the greatest success during his 20 years at Fort Osage.
One loss was painful.
Fort Osage was 27-0 and had captured its second district title in school history. The Indians then met Park Hill on March 4, 1995, in a state quarterfinal game at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.
The Indians were led by Betty Lennox, who moved with her family into the Fort Osage School District prior to her freshman year.
She led the Indians to their glory years. I continue to say she remains the greatest high school girls player in area history. She could do it all. She was a special talent. Remember, she later played in the Women’s National Basketball Association.
Page 2 of 2 - But the only time she fouled out in a high school game was the night of March 4. It came with only a few minutes remaining and the Indians fell 55-50. I interviewed Dale after the game. He handled the emotionlly draining defeat with class.
If you recall, the boys game that followed was between Kansas City Central and Raytown, also 27-0. Central prevailed in double overtime 80-73 in what remains the greatest high school game I’ve seen. The two games drew a packed crowd of over 10,000.
I have to admit, this column was difficult to write because of my fondness for Dale. He his making many more friends in heaven.