Born in Clarkfield, MN, Walt Williams joined the Navy right out of high school in 1943 and served in the South Pacific. With a year's college credit in hand from the Navy, he attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, after World War II. He met and married Sally Hoeg there, and starred as a basketball center at 6 feet, 5 inches. After college, Walt began his career as a high school teacher and a coach.
Walt coached basketball in five different decades, from 1949 to 1980! He taught and coached five years in Farmington, MN. He taught social studies and coached basketball at Southwest from 1955 to 1980 at Southwest. Walt is on the esteemed list of basketball coaches with over 300 wins. He retired with 326 wins in an era when high school basketball season was only about 16 games long! He coached 601 high school basketball games! Walt was an innovator - think of the changes to the game during his career: the first one-handed shot, the first jump shot, the first dunk, the first behind the back pass, the first 7' foot high schooler. The equipment changes - glass backboards, nylon nets, "basketball shoes", the old 4 panel balls of uneven shape in the 40s and 50s to the beautiful basketballs with consistent air pressure of the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. Rules changes - 1949 was the first year actual coaching during a game was allowed, goaltending, 3 second lane widened from 6 feet to 12 feet. Plays, full court presses, match-up zones. Walt was a pioneer on the cutting edge.
Many of his teams, especially in the early and mid 70s, contended for city conference championships, which was considered by many to be the toughest basketball conference in the state during that era. His Southwest team won a conference championship in 1961-62.
In addition to launching many of his athletes into college basketball, a remarkable number of Walt's former players became successful high school and college coaches. Walt never forgot to have fun with his players with post practice games of H-O-R-S-E and hook shot contests.
Walt also served as an assistant track and football coach, and coached girls basketball towards the end of his career.
Walt and his wife, Sally, raised their family within walking distance of school on 46th and Zenith.