For most of six seasons, Corey Williams was Leonard Hamiltons right-hand man at Florida State.
Hamilton was the Seminoles head coach, Williams his senior officer, right next to him on the bench.
In June, the Northeast graduate became the head coach at Stetson. Literally, he moved up a seat. Figuratively, its a much longer move than that.
When I came in his office as an assistant coach and I had all these questions I wanted to ask him, hed look up like, Whats up? Williams said. Like, Im busy, Ive got a lot going on, what do you want?
I understand and appreciate Leonard Hamilton a lot more.
The transition was made difficult by the timing of Casey Alexanders departure for Lipscomb after only two seasons with the Hatters. Two returning players already had decided to transfer and stuck with those plans. Then two signees asked for their release.
The first thing I said to those guys was, Im not holding you hostage; youre not holding me hostage. This is not where you can taste the Kool-Aid and see if its sweet. If you want to be here, youll be here, Williams said.
The first month of the season in Williams debut as a head coach was brutal. The Hatters started off 0-9, including 0-3 against Florida program.
But Williams will bring the A-Suns second-hottest team to the home of the hottest team Saturday when the Hatters visit Mercer and Hawkins Arena.
Theyve started to show the toughness that Ive been harping on, said Williams, who played at Oklahoma State and helped the Chicago Bulls win an NBA title. The last three games, they really have shown toughness and fight and grit. Im proud of that.
Mercer (16-5, 7-1 A-Sun) faces a group that hass emerged as the surprise team -- in a good way -- as the conference nears the halfway point.
Picked to finish seventh in the preseason, the Hatters are 6-5 since Dec. 1 and winners of three straight. Included in that list of victims is a surprise team -- in a bad way -- USC Upstate, which lost 77-73 in overtime to Stetson.
Coreys done a great job, and that doesnt surprise me, Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. Ive known him a long time. Hes been around a lot of good people. He has all the makings of being a special coach. For them to get it turned like they have after their start, that takes a lot of ability to keep his team.
Thursday nights 68-65 win at Kennesaw State was Stetsons first road win of the season. Of course, the Hatters (6-14, 4-4) have visited Clemson, Notre Dame, South Florida and Central Florida, as well as Florida International and three losses in a tournament in Estero, Fla., between Naples and Fort Myers.
Willie Green is 11th in the A-Sun in scoring, averaging 14.3 points, fifth in shooting at 56 percent and tied for second with 1.5 blocks. Brian Pegg, brother of former Stetson standout Adam, is sixth with 6.7 rebounds per game.
The Hatters are a little more defense-oriented under Williams than under Alexander and are growing in confidence.
We started to know were as good as any team if we play like were capable of playing, said Hunter Miller, a senior who transferred from Florida Gulf Coast after his sophomore season. We knew that, but the coaches, we all believed in each other, and they believe in us.
Now that weve got a few wins here now, three in a row, were starting to make strides in the right direction.
Williams hopes that continues in his hometown.
I expect to have anywhere between 30 and 40 people, screaming and yelling, coming from the east side, the west side and the north side excited to see me, WIlliams said. I told Bob that, Remember now, my family is at the game, so take it easy on me.