The first thing Willie Worsley received was a phone call. He didn’t believe that. Then he opened a letter and had to read it three times before even beginning to comprehend the contents. Finally, the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame called Worsley a second time.
It took every step for the news to resonate.
“I was sitting there thinking about it and thought, ‘Do you know how many great guys have come out of New York City?'” Worsley said. “I think they made a mistake.”
They didn’t. The truth is the Spring Valley basketball coach will be inducted into the city’s hall on Sept. 14 at the New York Athletic Club, joining a class that includes former Iona College star Steve Burtt and former NBA big men Olden Polynice and Jayson Williams, among others.
“For me, it’s really a humbling thing,” Worsley said.
Worsley started for two seasons on the varsity at DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx. His teams lost just one game over the two seasons and captured a public-school city championship in 1962-63, his junior year.
Worsley went on to play for Texas Western, part of the historic, all-black starting five in the 1966 NCAA Championship game where the Miners upset all-white Kentucky.
Since his playing days ended, Worsley has worked extensively with at-risk youth. He then became the Spring Valley boys coach in 2000 and has coached the Tigers for 16 seasons.
Considering the context, Worsley’s induction next week will stand alongside his best accomplishments.
“New York City is a really well-known basketball area,” he said. “I was just a country boy who could play a little bit of basketball and now people have recognized me for it.”