Basketball

South Salem coach hits milestone with victory

South Salem girls basketball coach Nick McWilliams (left) poses with daughter Katie (middle) and wife Diane after he won his 500th game as a head coach.

South Salem girls basketball coach Nick McWilliams (left) poses with daughter Katie (middle) and wife Diane after he won his 500th game as a head coach.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated McWilliams record at South Salem.

The milestone wins in Nick McWilliams’ coaching career are coming on quickly.

When South Salem High School’s girls basketball team defeated Forest Grove 70-44 on Tuesday, it gave McWilliams the 500th win as a head coach.

It took 32 years to get to the latest benchmark, but the wins have been coming in bunches in recent years.

“It is, but that’s because we’ve had great teams the last four years,” McWilliams said. “We won 28 last year, 27 the year before and 24 the year before that.

“They accumulate quickly when you only lose one or two games a year.”

McWilliams had a 324-199 record in 22 years as a head boys basketball coach at Santiam Christian, Central, Forest Grove, Milwaukie and Sprague, including winning the 1984 state championship at Santiam Christian.

In his 10 years as head girls basketball coach at South Salem he has a record of 176-80.

But more than that, in the past few years he’s won OSAA Class 6A state championships the past two years to go along with the state championship he won as a neophyte coach at Santiam Christian in 1984.

McWilliams opened the season with 497 wins, but it took more time for McWilliams to get to 500 than some people thought it would.

South Salem lost 88-51 to Southridge in the season opener then 56-46 in the second game against Sheldon.

The Saxons turned it around in their past three games, all wins.

“I think just working harder defensively,” McWilliams said. “I think getting more balance scoring the first couple games, Evina (Westbrook) had over half our points, and it’s great for her, but against good teams, you’re not going to be very successful when that’s happening.

“Dani Harley has had 20 in our last few games. The emergence of Morgan Winder, she had 16 points last night and 12 the night before. She’s someone who can benefit from the defense focusing on Evina and Dani.”

McWilliams joins an elite group of coaches such as Mike Doherty, Nick Robertson, Dennis Murphy, Barry Adams, Gary Hull, Brad Smith and Gary Lavender who have won 500 or more games.

Nick McWilliams, in glasses, poses with South Salem High School's girls basketball team after his 500th win.

Nick McWilliams, in glasses, poses with South Salem High School’s girls basketball team after his 500th win.

“It’s humbling just because I know some of the names of people that were successful coaches that I coached against,” he said. “On the boys side Barry Adams and Nick Robertson that I coached against as a younger coach. They’ve got more than I do.

“I know there are a lot of really good coaches that I’m within shouting distance of in terms of wins, that makes me feel good. On the other hand, that’s not really why I coach. I enjoy the relationship with the players. The winning is just kind of a byproduct of those things happening.”

bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler

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