Marc Daniels: A Simple Call With Pat Williams...I'll Cherish Forever

The Red Phone Must be Answered

Photo: Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their 1983 championship season. Former players and front office members of a team who had one of the best regular seasons ever gathered to be honored and share memories. After viewing some of the highlights and reading the stories about that gathering, I reached out to friend and former Sixer's GM Pat Williams. I wanted to have him on the radio show and share some memories of that incredible season as only Pat can.

I have interviewed Pat Williams probably over a 100 times and he's a bank of memories and an incredible story teller. Not just an incredible front office executive, but a brilliant marketer, Williams has penned dozens of books and authors are likely great at telling stories and that makes him a great guest on a radio show.

My routine of connecting with Pat is similar over the years. I usually send him a text since I am not sure where he is, who he may be meeting with or what he might be doing. At some point Williams will call- not text but call- me back shortly after the initial text. It's never a short confirmation about being able to come on and I am grateful for that. But always wants to know how I am doing as I do of him. He always asks about our local Orlando teams and what's happening at UCF. 

I first met Pat Williams shortly after I moved to Orlando in May of 1989. It was the summer before the Magic played their inaugural season and Williams was working his Magic(pun intended) to sell tickets, hyping the already hyped and preparing for a new ad(venture)(see what I did there) and doing what one of the greatest sporting marketing wizards should do. 

Today, Williams is about to turn 83 and still going strong. A cancer survivor, he has not slowed down. He still travels to give speeches to business leaders and audiences around the country and still writes books because Pat has many stories to tell.

While no longer involved in the day-to-day basketball operations of the Orlando Magic, Williams still follows the team closely and still knows the league as well as anyone.Pat Williams hasn't slowed down because there is still too much life to love and experience. 

So was the case when Williams called me back the other night. Well, Pat did call back shortly back after I sent my initial text but I was calling a UCF baseball game at Stetson. I sent him a picture of the stadium/field from the broadcast booth knowing he would appreciate a night at the ballpark. We then played a little phone tag until Wednesday night shortly after 9p when my phone rang and the screen showed it was him.

It is never a quick confirmation from Pat about coming on the show and I love that. On this night, after the usual question about how you are doing, Williams first confirmed coming on the show and then went right in to sharing some memories of that 40th anniversary celebration at Philadelphia and how wonderful it was but then he wanted to talk about the NBA Draft. He asked me about UCF's Taylor Hendricks and just how good he is and will be. We talked about Hendricks and then Pat said he has been preparing for the draft. Yes, with no official role for the Magic or any NBA team, Pat has been preparing for the draft.

At first I thought he was somewhat joking when he said he had watched about 20 games each of most of the top players in this draft. I even chuckled back initially until Williams then broke into a breakdown of not one or two or a few names. No, Pat ripped off about 20-30 names of the likely group to be selected in the first round, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of every player. I was silently stunned. From Victor Wembanyama to Brandon Miller to Scoot Henderson to players from Villanova, Arkansas, Duke, Kentucky and on and on and on. He broke down the whys to draft and the why nots to draft. When he said he watched about 20 games of the top players, he wasn't kidding. It was amazing to listen to someone who hasn't been involved in an NBA Draft for more than a decade sound like an expert with a clear vision of the can't miss stars in the making.

Williams does believe UCF's Hendricks is one of the best players in the draft with huge upside. He also thinks Brandon Miller might be the second best player behind the unicorn that is Wembanyama. Pat thinks Wembanyama is one of those generational players who might grow even taller in the coming year or two.

Our draft talk went on for about 20-25 minutes but Pat was not done. I heard background noise during our call, not so loud I could not hear our talk, but enough to know Pat was out and about. He was. Pat called me back while attending a Little League game where two of his grandsons were playing on the other side of the state. Of course he did, because Pat Williams first love has always been and always will be baseball. He then broke into a little play-by-play of the game as little Teddy came to the plate. That's right, Pat Williams has a grandson named Ted Williams. Teddy is a 10-year left handed catcher and Pat thinks he has potential to be special. That broke into a talk about left handed catchers and Pat's challenge of finding a catcher's mitt for a lefthander and Pat shared his recent talk with former MLB catcher Bob Boone about why a lefty could become a MLB catcher. Yes, that Bob Boone, who Williams had named manager of the Orlando SunRays while pursuing a MLB expansion team back in 1990.

Pat then got back to the play-by-play of Teddy's at bat as he was then hit by pitch. Teddie got to second base and then scored on a wild pitch while his brother was at the plate before grounding out to end the game, a 10-8 loss.

But the whole scene was perfect and beautiful in so many ways. Pat Williams was at the ballpark watching his grandkids play baseball. I could see everything he was describing and felt the emotions on every play. Because Pat is a great story teller. 

Our conversation ended shortly after that final out. He once again confirmed our interview on the radio show and I told him I looked forward to it and to travel safely and be well.

One of the many things I miss about my dad, who passed away a few years ago, was just talking sports with him everyday. Whether it be about the Yankees game or why the Giants stink or how the UCF game I was calling went. I miss that everyday. No one will ever replace my dad, but on this night talking with Pat it felt a little like talking with my dad. From breaking down the NBA Draft to runners advancing on a wild pitch at a Little League game of 10-year olds, it was classic Pat. A simple call, but one I will cherish...

Final Note: This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Sixers, who went 9-73. That team had losing streaks of 15, 14, 20 and 13 games.

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