Late Falls hoops coach William Young was a man of character, humor and class
Member of both Falls and WBCA Hall of Fames
William F. "Wild Bill" Young was a kind, good man, a fine teacher and a heck of a basketball coach.
The late Menomonee Falls and Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame member was also a generous soul who also understood people, and who according to his near lifelong friend Bob Hessler, was also a possessor of quite an effective dry wit and a bit of artist, too.
Young, 87, passed away from natural causes at the Pine View Care Center in Black River Falls on Christmas Day.
"We were very close and I'd go up to see him," said Hessler, who served as Young's assistant in the late 1950s and early 1960s, "and the sense of humor would still be there. I remember when after the two schools split (in 1969 into Falls North and Falls East), that even though Jes (longtime football coach Jim Jeskewitz) and I were in one building (East) and Bill was in the other (North), we would always get a cartoon from him every Friday (game day).
"And it usually went something like this if things weren't going so well with the team 'Well, remember you guys still have the jobs until Monday' or 'I'm with you all the way, win or tie (not lose).' "
Those kind of gentle ribbings were characteristic of a man who understood sports for what they were, a steppingstone to other things in life, full of opportunities to teach practical lessons and help a person move closer to their eventual destiny.
Great Menomonee Falls Athletic Hall of Famer John Budde, who played for Young on the terrific Falls' basketball teams of the late 1950s up at the old Lincoln Gym, understood that, too. Both went in with the inaugural class of the Falls Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
"Coach was very patient with me," Budde said, "as I had never played basketball nor had I even been to a high school game before stepping on the floor for the first practice in my Keds (shoes) purchased at Semons Feed Store in the Falls.
"He gave me an opportunity to learn by playing and mentoring, without any negativity. We really had a full team of guys who had played little organized basketball, as there were not many youth leagues, so we were a rag tag group who grew as individuals and as a team under coach's guidance.
"… What I remember most about coach was his droll sense of humor and his deep affection for his players. He always had a quip for one of the players, making a joke, with a small smile, almost a smirk, on his face, proud of what he had just said.
"This would always break up the practice routine as everyone would bust out laughing."
Knack for success
Young had a knack for happy and successful teams.
He led the Indians at old Falls High and then at Falls North from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, compiling a 174-107 record and earning Braveland Conference titles in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1969.
He worked with fellow Falls Hall of Famers like Hessler and coached the likes of Budde and fellow inaugural HOF class member Bob Wolf, who went on to have a stellar hoops career at Marquette University.
A 10-letter athlete at Augusta High School in the early 1940s, Young graduated from UW-Stout in 1950 where he earned five letters in basketball and baseball. His first coaching experience was in Dollar Bay, Mich., before he moved to the Falls.
At Falls, he became a shop teacher, a coach and even served a year as athletic director in 1970-71.
And he was so much more.
"Bill was very special to me," former Falls North football coach and recently retired longtime Falls Athletic Director Dave Petroff said. "When I first came to the Falls (around 1974) and I first got the football job, we struggled at times and Bill acted as a mentor for me when I was frustrated.
"He would tell me, 'There's a process you have to go through. You have to teach them (the players) how to win. They've got to get close enough to smell it.' And it worked. It wasn't long after that that we finally won a conference title.
"A great guy, and he could also coach basketball a little (laughs)."
Hall of Famer
Young was inducted into the WBCA Hall of Fame back in 1983.
Ever a humble man, when it came his turn at the Falls Hall of Fame induction ceremonies back in 2004, Young spoke for only a short time, but as usual, said volumes.
"The many illustrious victories and careers that got started here," he said. "We had our share of close losses, but we filled the gym and had a good time."
And he always seemed to remember that the kids needed to have a good time if they were going to be successful.
"He always said we could get more out of a kid with honey than with vinegar," Hessler said. "He never treated a kid like he was not any good. He knew we would have to get on a kid from time to time if he was going to improve, but he said we also had to congratulate that kid, pat him on the back, when he did something good."
That generosity carried over into real life, too, said Hessler, noting that Young always had a couple of bucks for people who were down on their luck and like Petroff noted, he was there to listen and to provide good advice for anyone who needed it.
Hessler noted that he was such a quiet, unassuming person around the building. That is, in fact, how the kids at school gave him his nickname.
"He was so calm, so relaxed and laid back," Hessler said, "that when he would walk by, the kids would go 'Uh, oh, here comes Wild Bill.' He just never got upset at anything."
Always quiet, but always making an impact.
"I had many different coaches over my eight years of athletics, all of whom were very dedicated, and left something with me after graduation," Budde said, "but coach Young has always been at the top of my list."
Young grew frail in recent years, but he always made an effort to stay in touch.
Budde and teammate Danny Schramm organized a reunion of the great 1950s basketball team at the Trysting Place four years ago. They managed to set up a Skype feed to Black River Falls, where Young's wife, Judy, helped him read a statement and talk to as many of his former charges as he had the strength for.
"Just a great guy, one of the absolute best people I ever coached or worked with," Hessler said. "I will miss him a lot."
So, it appears, will many others.
Young is survived by his wife, Judy, and other family members. A memorial service followed by military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at Black River Evangelical Lutheran Church in Black River Falls. Visitation is from 10 a.m. until time of the service.
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