PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Bill Bills sat right there in his lawn chair and took in the game like it was any other he’d coached in the 38 seasons prior.
He didn’t say much, offered little expression and barely lifted a finger each of the six times his team scored. After it concluded — another ho-hum midweek victory in his pocket — Bills folded up his chair and gathered with his squad in the far corner of the field for a very brief postgame meeting.
Following the discussion, Bills began his trek back across the field and toward the school as he’s done too many times to even consider. This walk became much different than all of the others, though.
As his journey across the pitch furthered, the atmosphere looming over the field transitioned quickly. The final stretch of his travel had a spiritual feel to it, as if he were crossing a parted Sea.
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Perhaps the intangible feeling that had overtaken the premises was a sign. In fact it was.
Awating Bills’ arrival at the opposite end of the field gathered 500 family, friends, students and alumni to greet him. For Bills had crossed into uncharted territory.
Thirty-nine years after he fathered the birth of athletics at the Timothy Christian School, Bills collected career victory 1,000 on Wednesday afternoon.
His victories are spread across three sports, with boys basketball and baseball being the others. Soccer has been the most fortuitous to him, as he’s compiled a staggering record of 405-147-16.
“We talked about this happening one day,” said the man of the hour. “To think of how many hours our players put in on this field with the coach getting all the credit makes no sense. “The players are the ones playing the game, and for all the kids to come through creates more of a family aspect.”
“We all had a part in this,” said the legendary coach. “Often times the coach gets too much credit, and sometimes it’s the opposite. It’s been fun to be a part of this because of all the players have come through our program. They’ve made it enjoyable for the entire time and its a tribute to them.”
It was a who’s-who gathering behind the Tigers’ campus to take in history, as numerous former players and school administrators waited in line to congratulate the humble man.
Bills spoke a lot about family, and how the Timothy community really is like a family to many.
John Janho can relate. Once a hoops and soccer player for Bills in the late ’70s, Janho has stuck around his family and serves as the school board president. John’s brother Steven was also a disciple of Bills, and John’s sons are making their way through Timothy’s middle school and will one day join the family.
So many fond memories were shared on a sunny afternoon, perfectly suited for such the celebration.
“When Bill first came, the school had nothing,: said John Janho. “He built everything. We literally went down and picked up the lumber for the first set of soccer goals we built across from where the McDonald’s is on Stelton Rd.”
But pieces of lumber and soccer goals don’t define who Bills is to John Janho.
As he fought back tears, he offered this message to his old coach: “Thank you for touching my life and my sons’ lives. The countless hours you‘ve built into me carries on both as an athlete and as a dad trying to raise sons. To take the Christian principles from him is priceless, and that’s what I‘m grateful to William Bills for.”
And as they say, behind every strong man there’s an even stronger woman by his side.
“I don’t even know how to express my emotions,” said Bills’ wife Karen. “It’s something that as a family here at Timothy we’ve just looked forward to coaching year in and year out. This is a culmination of the number of games he’s coached and how many he’s won.
Despite coming up on four decades at Timothy, Bills seems as vibrant as ever.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. I’m 62-years old. I feel good and still enjoy the game so I’m still going to coach.
“Six more years,’’ he joked.
Or was he really joking?
Joe Martino writes for MyCentralJersey.com, a Gannett property.