FIMBA GB Stories – Des Williams

In our next – FIMBA GB Stories – we look at the Des Williams who through his love of basketball, got his life back on track.

FIMBA GB Stories looks at some of the many inspirational and empowering stories within our teams, highlighting current issues faced by those young and old and how basketball and being part of the FIMBA GB Family has helped them overcome adversity.

Des was a promising young basketball player, having earned an academic scholarship to St John’s University in New York City and was playing professional basketball in Birmingham until 2:35pm on March 17th 1995, when he lay face up and dying in the middle of a ploughed field.

Everything that Des had worked for, trained for and dreamt of was all for nothing. He was the front seat passenger in a Ford Escort Cosworth, looking to buy a new car and was on a test drive with an experienced salesman who lost control of the car at 105mph on a bend in Wellingborough, it swerved, hit a verge, flew 15 feet in the air and rolled four times and 250 feet into a ploughed field.

The rehab was horrendous, the aftercare dreadful and Des was left to his own devices, to get on with life. Owing to an error in the hospital, it wasn’t until two months had passed that the severity of his injuries came to light but by then the damage to his body had been set. Nine months after the accident, the doctors decided to investigate the injuries further and discovered the true impact of the crash, it had caused a spinal cord injury and one that there is no coming back from.

Had they been 3 seconds later, they would have hit a 38T truck head on, as it was, the HGV driver ended up saving his life. The salesman was left with a small graze on his forehead, whereas Des suffered 4 cracked ribs, fractured hips, cuts across his head, face and hands, severe internal bruising, glass in his eyes and substantial bruising to his legs, knees and ankles.

Over the next two years Des fought to regain his mobility, he lost his business, his marriage and his home was under threat of repossession. Des fell into a deep depression as family, friends and colleagues all fell away from his life and he felt like a failure. After the third attempt at taking his own life, his new GP suggested he find an enjoyable hobby and suggested doing something within basketball. Des called a few local clubs, but no one wanted him until a chance conversation with Dick Barrett of Leicester Riders, who asked him to pop up for a chat and to coach a session. All went well and Des was given the U16’s who only had six players, with the season just 6 weeks away.

Des sat in the bleachers at Granby Halls, grateful for the chance to get back into the sport he loves and determined to throw himself into this new positive environment and out of the depression he was in. The 36 mile drive to training gave him time to think and the drive home the time to reflect.

Initially, the players, coaches and parents around Des at the time, didn’t buy into his coaching methods. However, a chat with a couple of American players soon had the word spreading that he had been coached by one of the best college coaches in the USA and so if he was using those drills, Des was doing it right. Weeks later the results started to show and the team that lost all its preseason games suddenly started winning all its league games.

Two weeks before the start of his rookie coaching season, Des was told he also had an U18 side to coach too and so was doubling up at weekends but still winning.

One of the proudest moments in my coaching career came as I sat in the stands with some parents and players and realised that six of my U18’s were sat on a BBL team bench, being watched live on Sky TV and in front of their parents. All their hard work was paying off. Two of those players got the chance to go to the USA on scholarships and the rest went onto National League careers and enjoyed the game.

I was blessed to have been guided at Leicester by Peter Shaw, Kevin Routledge, Dick Barrett, Carlos Frade, Tim Darling to name a few. I sit here knowing that had I not had that chat with Peter Shaw and Dick Barrett, I may not have seen the new millennium and for that I have a debt of gratitude to those people, a debt that I can never repay in full.

Des Williams

April 2002, Des woke with a heavy cold, headache and chest pain. As he sat in reception with his daughter, the receptionist asked him if he felt ok – 30 minutes later Des was in ICU being treated for a heart attack. Once again, all the hard work he’d put into coaching was gone, his new academies in London, Loughborough and Leicester were now in the hands of others and Des was left with nothing, having to walk away from the game and the people and rehab…again.

Fast forward 20 years and Des has changed, not getting too stressed and taking life as it comes. However, the constant has been his love for basketball, the people and the lifestyle.

Malaga 2023 was a turning point for Des as a person, coach and businessman. Marvelling at the professionalism of the other teams competing, they all took it so seriously and even the coaching standards were different class. Des knew he could coach but some of these coaches put on a masterclass and just sitting watching them brought back the excitement of the young rookie coach in him. Des is now using the newfound enthusiasm as Head Coach of the FIMBA GB +55 Men and Committee member.

Being part of the FIMBA GB family has reignited that passion to coach, to improve players regardless of age and to compete at the top of the game. Being with likeminded people, people who want success on a limited budget and to promote the game at all levels, has been cathartic for me. I’ve been blessed with good fortune in my life, but the one blessing I really appreciate is the one for the game and the feeling of family, friendship all whilst being competitive.

Des Williams

Thank you for sharing your incredible story, Des. You are truly an inspiration and an incredible teammate. We are incredibly proud to have you as part of the FIMBA GB Family.