700 for Bobby

R-W’s Anderson reaches milestone

ROWVA-Williamsfield Coach Bob Anderson makes a point to sophomore point guard Lewis Sams. Anderson also coached both of Sams’ older brothers and his father, Charlie, who was a point guard and is a current assistant coach. Photo by Collin Fairfield. At left, Anderson holds a ball commemorating his 700th career victory.

For The Weekly Post

WILLIAMSFIELD – In high school, Bob Anderson could score with the best of them. The third-leading scorer in Williamsfield history, Anderson averaged more than 26 points per game as a junior for a Billtown basketball team that played in the same sectional as eventual 1964 state champ Pekin.

But it was during his senior year that Anderson had a eureka moment that has stayed with him longer than his long-range jump shot.

Somehow that year, Williamsfield scheduled a home game against Chicago Farragut. Going in, Anderson judged that a Chicago opponent would have no clue about him.

“I thought I was going to light them up,” he said.
He was wrong.

Early in the game, Anderson beat his man and expected to drive to the basket – only to discover Farragut had four defenders boxed behind his man, ready to help out.

“All game it was like that. And I got to thinking ‘What in the world is this?’” Anderson recalled Monday in his memorabilia-filled office, located underneath the gym named in his honor. “It always stuck in my mind that if I ever get a job coaching and we play somebody that’s got one great scorer, I’m going to try that.”

Generations of frustrated foes have regretted Anderson discovering the box-and-one. And almost to a man, opposing coaches shake their heads in admiration of the different defensive schemes Anderson will try.

“There’s a lot of defenses out there, and we’ll play any of them if it gives us the edge,” Anderson said.

In a 43-year coaching career that has seen major changes to the game of basketball, that willingness to learn has remained one of Anderson’s strengths.

“I always say, ‘The day I’m not willing to go to a clinic, that’s the day I’m going to quit coaching,” Anderson said. “Because you can always learn. Every day I take the practice floor, there’s something that happens that I learn from.”

Little wonder, then, that Anderson moved up another rung on the list of top coaches in Illinois. With a 53-35 win over Stark County last Friday, Anderson earned his 700th career victory. His 700-529 record ranks 22nd among boys coaches and is 13th for wins at the same school.

Though reaching 700 was expected once the season started for ROWVA-Williamsfield (9-11), Anderson said the milestone was more emotional than he anticipated.

“I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal, but people responded well to it,” Anderson said. “I’m happy about that. I’m happy they’re happy.”

Reaching another plateau is also more validation for Anderson, who admits to having had doubts about staying put for so long. Though he spent 36 years as Billtown Bobby, the face of Williamsfield basketball, and for the past seven years has been the only coach in ROWVA-Williamsfield co-op history, Anderson did ponder leaving.

Knoxville, Elmwood and Abingdon were coaching jobs he considered. At one point, he even toyed with becoming a truck driver.

But Anderson never left. Something kept him in Williamsfield, where he has lived since his family moved there from rural Gilson when he was 9. He has made peace with his situation – thanks in part to a packet of materials from Jerry Wainwright, a former college coach.

“He sent some stuff to me one time and there was a phrase in there, ‘Make the big time where you’re at.’ I read that statement and I thought, maybe this was meant to be,” Anderson said. “I thought, ‘As long as you’re here, do the best you can here and let the rest fall where it may.’ That kind of put me at ease. And now, with everything, it’s not bad.”

Not bad at all. Despite a chronic lack of size and a smaller enrollment than many foes, Anderson’s teams won regional titles in 1982, 1985, 1997, 2007 and 2015 – nearly all as underdogs. The 1997 team also made the Elite Eight in Peoria before falling to St. Francis de Sales.

To reach state, Billtown upset Rock Island Alleman in a supersectional Anderson calls his best coaching memory. He can still recall every detail of Troy Endress’ put-back of a last-second miss by Travis Lewis to stun Alleman. Lewis is Williamsfield’s leading scorer at 2,595 points and Anderson calls him his “best player ever.” As a senior, Lewis averaged 32.9 ppg and benefitted from another Anderson philosophy.

“If we’ve got somebody that can score, we try to get them the ball. And we try to get them the ball at the place where they can score,” said Anderson, who also coached Billtown’s second-leading scorer, Alex Ott (as well as Ott’s father, Mark).

To help make that happen, Anderson occasionally refers to stacks of paper – gathered at clinics over the years – that occupy shelves in a closet next to his office. One shelf holds offensive plays. One holds defensive sets. Another is for inbound plays. And that wealth of material doesn’t include the coaching emails Anderson peruses daily, or the YouTube videos he watches, despite the tech challenge that poses for a 74-year-old who has had the same flip phone for a decade and prefers mailing hand-written preseason prospectuses and all-conference teams.

“He’s still so sharp in practice. It’s amazing the things he sees. He’s always looking for an angle,” said Charlie Sams, an assistant who played for Anderson. “I always say, ‘If I worked as hard at my job as he does in basketball, I would own the company. The man is a legend.”

Fellow coaches offer similar praise.
“Coach Anderson really instilled the competitive drive in me,” said Brimfield Coach Kevin Kreiter, who played at Williamsfield until transferring to Brimfield after his freshman year. “He made me realize that if you are going to play a sport, you have to outwork everyone with no excuses.”

Added Elmwood Coach Josh Fugitt, “Forty-three years. It’s pretty incredible and a testament to his worth ethic and commitment to one program. And 43 years later, he’s still outcoaching most people.”

All of which leads to a common question: How much longer?

“I can’t honestly give you an answer,” Anderson said. “We’ll see how this season ends. If it’s a good ending, I might look into next year. Or maybe this is good enough. Maybe this is time.”