Heading into his second preseason at the helm, Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich rounded out his coaching staff for the 2019-20 season with the addition of Donovan Williams as an assistant coach.
Williams brings to Longwood a coaching resume that spans more than a decade and includes trips to the NCAA Tournament with Georgia Tech and Lafayette, a Patriot League Championship, and 20-win seasons with three different programs. His most recent stop came at Cornell where he helped engineer a resurgence that earned the Big Red a trip to the College Insider Tournament this past season.
“I am so pleased to welcome Donovan, along with his wife and daughter, to Longwood University,” Aldrich said. “Donovan had the perfect complement of skillset and experience for what we were looking for in a new coach. He is not only a highly relational individual who loves being with the players, he’s also a highly experienced coach who has learned from some of the best coaches in the nation. I am honored to add Donovan to our staff and know he will be a tremendous asset to our program and University.”
In his 11 seasons at the Division I level, Williams has been a part of three rebuilding projects, including a two-year stint as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech where he helped turn the Yellow Jackets from a 12-win team in 2008-09 to a 23-win, NCAA Tournament-bound squad in 2009-10. Led by NBA Lottery pick Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech defeated North Carolina and Maryland in the ACC Tournament to advance to the league championship game and later to the program’s first NCAA postseason since 2007.
That stint at Georgia Tech set the tone for a coaching career that has seen Williams contribute to turnarounds at both Lafayette and Cornell, stepping into each of those programs after losing seasons and helping guide both to postseason tournaments. He left Georgia Tech after that ACC semifinal appearance to become an assistant coach at Lafayette in 2010-11, and within five seasons helped turn a 13-win Leopard squad into a Patriot League Championship and an NCAA Tournament participant.
Williams was instrumental in Lafayette’s success during that half-decade, mentoring three All-Patriot League first-teamers in Dan Trist, Tony Johnson and Jarred Mintz, as well as all-rookie selection and Patriot League Tournament MVP Nick Lindner. Prior to hoisting the Patriot League title in 2015, Williams also helped the Leopards reach the title game in 2011 and 2013.
After five seasons at Lafayette, Williams moved on to the Ivy League where he helped guide Princeton to the 2016 National Invitational Tournament and a second-place Ivy League finish. He oversaw the development of All-Ivy first-teamer Henry Caruso and second-teamer Spencer Weisz, who led the Tigers to a 22-7 season and a 12-2 Ivy League record.
That success followed Williams on his next stop in the Ivy League at Cornell where in three seasons he helped reignite a beleaguered Big Red squad that won just 10 games in the season prior to his arrival. By year two of his tenure, Cornell increased its win total overall and in conference play, reaching six Ivy League wins for its most in six seasons. By his third year, this past season, the Big Red went 15-16 overall and 7-7 in league play en route to a bid to the CIT.
His final season at Cornell also saw him aid in the growth of Ivy League scoring leader Matt Morgan, an All-Ivy League first-team selection and an NABC All-District honoree. Under his tutelage, Morgan became one of the greatest to ever come through Cornell’s program, finishing as the program’s all-time leader in points, scoring average and made field goals.
“I’m thrilled to join the Longwood community and become part of such a dynamic staff,” Williams said. “Coach Aldrich has a tremendous passion for the game and a great vision for Longwood Basketball. I look forward to adding to success and culture that he has established here.”
Williams got his start in college basketball as a four-year letterwinner at Park University in Parkville, Mo. A business administration major with a concentration in management and a minor in economics, he ascended to team captain as a senior before his graduation in 2008. He went on to earn his master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State in 2010.
Now Williams will look to continue that success for the up-and-coming Lancers, who enter 2019-20 after a breakout first year under Aldrich. The Lancers won the second-most games of the program’s Division I era last season, earned the program’s first D-I postseason berth and took down Southern Miss in the CBI first round for Longwood’s first Division I postseason win in school history. The Lancers return seven letterwinners from that squad, including the starting senior trio of Shabooty Phillips, JaShaun Smith and Jaylon Wilson.