Andrea Williams has coached at all three levels of the NCAA division in her nearly 30-year career. Her last stop is Chicago State, which hired her in July to coach the Cougars women’s basketball team.
“We’re going to compete,” Williams predicted in an MSR interview before CSU heads out next week for a two-game swing in Twin Cities that begins Dec. 12 at Williams Arena against host Gophers and then travels to St. Paul is moving to play at the University of St. Thomas on December 14th. “We will do our best and emerge in that environment.”
Williams began her coaching career at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (1995-97), then as a head coach at Division II Waynesburg (Pa.) University (1997-99). She has also held assistant trainer positions at Oakland University (2016-19) and Purdue Fort Wayne (2015-16), South Florida (2008-10), Jacksonville University (2004-08), US Naval Academy (2002-04 ), and the University of Tampa (1999-2002).
She gained her HC experience for three years (2019-21) at Fort Valley State and six years at the US Air Force Academy (2010-15). Williams could become the first black woman to train at two of the country’s military schools.
“Basketball has taken me to many places,” said the Native American. Williams graduated from Vincennes University (Associate Degree) and Edinboro University (BS Degree in Physical Education). Her first post-college job was teaching, but when she was offered a coaching job by her former coach, Williams jumped at the opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.
Chicago State is a historically black public university located south of the city. In recent years, the school has struggled as a women’s mature program. The challenge of turning things around, returning to a Division I school in the Midwest, is just too big to pass up, Williams said.
“It’s a big challenge to turn it in the right direction,” she admitted. “We want to recruit Chicago as best as we can, then Illinois state. We like to keep local talent at home.”
Williams is the second of five black women head coaches Minnesota will face this season. “I’ve been a coach for over 20 years,” she said.
“You have to be good role models. We’re trying to show that there is a place in this sport [for Blacks to coach] on the bench. I am ready to take this program to a level it hasn’t had before.”
CSU men’s coach
The Chicago State men’s basketball team plays in Minnesota on December 22nd. Chicago-based HBCU is the only school this season where both basketball teams will play at Williams Arena and both head coaches will be black.
We spoke to CSU men’s coach Gerald Gillion after his Cougars played St. Thomas on Nov. 11. In his sophomore year, Gillion was previously an assistant at Samford for a season and then Tennessee Tech (2017-19). He was also program director with a senior AAU team (2019-20).
Gillion began his coaching career in high school (2008-13) and joined collegiate coaching at Florida International (2013-14) as Director of Basketball Operations, then as Special Assistant to the Head Coach in South Florida (2014-17).
“We have to be able to put things together for 40 minutes, from start to finish,” Gillion said after losing to the hosts. He pointed out that his roster is young — seven sophomores, six freshmen, three juniors and one senior on this year’s list.
“We want to make sure people understand that we’re looking forward to winning on and off the pitch,” Gillion noted. “We want to develop young men so that they can be successful on and off the pitch. We will continue to work on this every day.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.