The path to a career in basketball starts on the baseball diamond
at least, that was the case for Pat Williams, Senior Executive Vice President of the Orlando Magic.
His professional sports career, which spans four decades, began in 1962 with a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, a $500 signing bonus and a $400 a month salary. When the 22-year-old Williams, left fielder/catcher for Class A Miami, faced the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees in his first professional game, he struck out twice on six pitches. My heart was beating a million miles an hour, he recalls. When I was down 0-2 on my third at-bat, I still didnt feel like a professional. It wasnt until I ripped that third pitch to right center for a stand-up double that I finally felt I had arrived.
Although a small part of him enjoyed the long bus rides, budget motels and small town crowds, Pats playing career lasted only two seasons. After packing up his spikes, he moved to the front office as an assistant. Impressed by his passion and work ethic, the Phillies organization moved Williams to Spartanburg, South Carolina where he became the general manager of another farm team. He was only 24.
In 1968, Jack Ramsay, general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, was about to become the teams coach. Looking for a business manager, he called up Williams, whose reputation had preceded him. I had never met Jack before, says Williams, so I was obviously a little shocked to get the call. Although a career in basketball had never crossed his mind, he decided to give it a shot. He moved from one Philadelphia sports team to another and has never looked back.
As it turned out, Williams took a liking to the NBA (and vice versa). He quickly moved up the ranks to general manager position, a title he held for twenty-five seasons. Even though his Philadelphia 76ers won a World Championship in 1983, the best was yet to come.
In June of 1986, Williams accepted an invitation from a group of Orlando business leaders to leave Philadelphia for Orlando to help bring an expansion team to Central Florida. Ten months after his arrival, the NBA awarded a franchise to Orlando and the Magic was born. I poured so much of myself into that process, he says. It was tremendously rewarding to help bring the franchise to Orlando. Im very proud of that.
Senior executive vice president of the Orlando Magic is just one of the many hats he wears today. He and his wife, Ruth, are parents of 19 children (14 are adopted from four different countries). In addition, he is a motivational speaker, author, Editor-At-Large of Faith Communications and, perhaps his most precious title, Brother in Christ.
His faith journey started at the age of 27 in South Carolina. He was a promising, young baseball executive full of aspirations and talent, but he was constantly searching for meaning to his life and career. Externally, he was generally satisfied. Internally, he felt a hollowness that the things of this world couldnt fill. He had always been taught that if he established goals and reached them, hed be happy. Why wasnt success fulfilling? Why was he restless and uneasy? Why couldnt he find peace?
He found the answers to these questions when a friend handed him a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws. Soon after, on February 22, 1968 at 3:45 p.m. (to be exact), Williams made a commitment to Christ. I shed tears that day, he remembers. I was truly a new creation after accepting Jesus as my Savior.
Anxiety quickly left his life as he surrendered each moment to his Heavenly Father. Whatever he wanted me to do was fine with me, he says. I was free from worry. Free from wondering where I would go next. I knew the Lord would take me where I needed to be.
After pledging his life to Christ, Williams clearly saw Gods hand working in him. It was then that he received the call from Jack Ramsey
the call that would take him to his true calling in the National Basketball Association.
Williams sees his high profile job as a tremendous ministry opportunity. He doesnt stand behind a pulpit, but he does allow the light of Christ to shine through him each day. Of course he experiences the many ups and downs of professional sports, but he no longer rides an emotional rollercoaster. I know that God will never leave or forsake me, he says. He walks me through the valley, preparing me for my ultimate destination...eternal life with Him.
When Pat Williams was an aspiring big leaguer, he never thought a career in the NBA was possible. As a believer in Christ, he knows that a life of true contentment and peace is not only possible