Former Xavier University of Louisiana student-athlete and assistant coach Alfred Williams, who engineered one of the best turnarounds in NAIA Division I men’s basketball this past season at Harris-Stowe State University, is returning home to become head coach at his alma mater.
XU Director of Athletics & Recreation Jason Horn announced the hiring of Williams Tuesday. He replaces Dannton Jackson, who left Xavier in April after 13 seasons as head coach to become an assistant at NCAA Division I’s University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I’m super-excited about the opportunity to become the next head men’s basketball coach at Xavier,” said Williams, who played for the Gold Rush from 2004-08 and served as an assistant coach from 2009-15. “Xavier has been near and dear to my heart ever since I stepped on campus in 2004. The rich tradition is second to none. I am looking forward to continue building on the foundations of the past while growing toward the future. We will work day in and day out to build a program that mirrors toughness, grit, hustle and passion in everything that we do. I’m looking forward to the challenge and continuing to build for greatness both on the court and in the classroom.”
Williams was head coach for one season at Harris-Stowe in St. Louis, where he led the Hornets in a 7 1/2-game improvement from the previous year and victories against a pair of NCAA Division II opponents. Harris-Stowe lost 84-83 in double-overtime Jan. 28 at American Midwest Conference champion Columbia (Mo.), a 29-game winner, after losing there by 46 points the previous season.
During his previous Xavier tenures, Williams was a member of three teams as a player and five teams as an assistant coach that qualified for the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship and won or shared four Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament regular-season championships. The Gold Rush averaged 23.3 victories during his three playing seasons and 23.2 victories during his six seasons as assistant coach.
Xavier won three consecutive GCAC regular-season championships from 2011-14, and its 121 victories from 2010-11 through 2014-15 are the second-winningest five years in the program history, topped only by the Gold Rush’s 126 victories from 1936-37 through 1940-41. Williams was a 6-foot-4 forward at Xavier, was All-GCAC his senior year and is one of three Gold Rush players with 800 points, 500 rebounds and 150 assists in a career.
“After a comprehensive national search which attracted many outstanding candidates, we are excited to welcome back Alfred Williams,” Horn said. “We are confident that AJ (Williams’ nickname) will continue the Xavier tradition of excellence and lead the Gold Rush to even greater national prominence while graduating our student-athletes.”
Williams, 32 and a native of Greenville, S.C., received his bachelor of science degree from Xavier in 2008.
Xavier was 21-13 in 2015-16 and qualified for NAIA’s national tournament for a school-record sixth consecutive year. The Gold Rush were runner-up in the GCAC Tournament each of the past two seasons. Xavier’s 31 seasons of 20 or more victories are the most in the history of Louisiana men’s college basketball.