In the wee hours of the morning, William Bills parks his car in an open field. With headlights glaring, Bills starts unloading lumber from his trunk. Next he pulls out a hammer, grabs a handful of nails and begins building soccer goals.
When Bills wants something done, he does it himself. Even if that means climbing atop the rafters in the gymnasium to switch out a light bulb.
Bills is the patriarch of athletics at the Timothy Christian School in Piscataway, and it’s already been 39 years since he accepted the challenge of becoming Timothy Christian’s first athletics director.
Challenge being the operative word, Bills began his storied tenure at an institution that was devoid of sports. His early days on the job were spent fostering the foundation of what Tigers athletics have evolved into today.
In just one year, Bills began a boys and a girls soccer team, a boys and a girls basketball team and got baseball and softball teams up and running.
“The first thing I did when I came to Timothy — Bill was on the hiring committee — I studied the history of the school,” said Timothy’s current director of athletics and varsity boys basketball coach Chris Hobbs, “and it didn’t take long for me to find out what Bill meant to everybody. It became obvious that the best thing I could do is get to know Bill as the new athletics director, and I spent a tremendous amount of time with him.”
Bills immediately assumed the head coaching positions of all three boys sports he implemented, and roughly four decades later his passion and drive hasn’t wavered. Although retired from coaching basketball after the 2000 season, Bills still mentors the Tigers’ baseball and boys soccer teams.
“I’m not going anywhere in the immediate future,” he said. “I’d like to coach at least six more years. I feel well physically, I enjoy being with the kids and I’m still having fun.”
As impressive as is the sheer amount of games he’s coached over the years, more staggering is the rate at which he collects the victories that have defined a legendary career.
Bills currently sits on 997 combined career victories at Timothy Christian between the three sports, and his achievements on the pitch are particularly impressive. His teams have won 70 percent of their games over 36 seasons pinning Bills with a record of 402-145-16.
“It (the milestone) hasn’t really been on my mind. It sort of snuck up on me,” the patriarch admitted. “The kids think about it sometimes more than I do. I just think about all the kids that have played for me on the soccer field and helped to accumulate all those wins.”
Bills’ coaching career is stockpiled with numerous accolades, achievements and memories, but one feat in particular immediately comes to mind for him.
“We lost the first game of the season in 1985,” he said, “but we didn’t lose again until 1987 — a 54-game winning streak.”
The face of athletics at an interdenominational, evangelical and independent school that’s fully accredited by ACSI and Middle States and offers 30 athletic programs to students K-12 will likely notch career victory 1,000 sometime this month.
“To win you just can’t show up,” said Hobbs. “You have be competitive year-in-and-year out to accumulate 1,000, and that’s what’s most impressive to me is his consistent excellence. It’s a privilege for me to be here and have the responsibility that it (the milestone) is properly recognized because I’ll never see it happen again or accomplish it myself. It’s a celebration for our entire school community, and it’s an exciting time for us.”
Pingry’s Miller A. Bugliari ’52 World Cup Field was constructed in 1994 as the World Cup training site for the Italian National Soccer Team. After nearly 20 years of excellence, the soccer facility underwent a dramatic refurbishment during the offseason thanks to the generosity of a Pingry family that wishes to remain anonymous. The project included the entire reconstruction of the subsurface and drainage, the laying of new sod, and — for the first time — new permanent seating built into the terraced hillside on the far side of the pitch.
There’s also a brand new facility a dozen miles south across U.S. Routes 287 and 78. Field turf has been installed at Gill St. Bernard’s and replaces a natural grass surface. The field will be christened when the Knights host Skyland Conference Valley Division rival North Plainfield on Thursday, Sept. 12.