Class of 1975
Ever heard of NBA Legends like Sarunas Marciulionis, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzski, Steve Nash, Michael Finley? Well, that is where the sweat took him. A coaching career in the NCAA college ranks and eventually into the NBA where in 2010 he helped his Milwaukee Bucks get to the NBA Playoffs. The stars mentioned had the opportunity to be coached by Peterson on basketball and how to survive through the mental and physical struggles of this grueling sport.
This is just a small part of what has the makings for a Pat Conroy Best Selling Novel.
I will try to add more of Bill's journey in the future, but if you want to contact me through this website I'd love to tell you some great stories about Seminole basketball and the coaches and players that have been a part of it's history.
Many longtime National Basketball Association gurus consider Karl Malone the top power forward in the history of the game.
Dirk Nowitzki is the NBA's reigning most valuable player, and is deemed by most observers as the premier European import ever to play in the league.
Steve Nash, winner of back-to-back NBA MVP awards in the two years before Nowitzki received the honor, is regarded as the preeminent point guard in professional basketball today.
All three are lead-pipe cinches to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame one day.
As outstanding as Malone once was and Nowitzki and Nash still are, some may forget that none of them were overnight sensations. There were points in all three of their careers when their basketball futures were beset by struggles and clouded with doubts.
That was where Bill Peterson stepped in.
Peterson joined the staff of Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak on June 4, 2007 as an assistant coach for player development. The niche is one he stepped into over two decades ago and has since printed on his calling card.
"Bill is widely recognized as a first-rate developmental coach," Krystkowiak said on the day of Peterson's hiring. "Having watched him work, Bill has the ability to push players past their threshold to make them better. I've always believed that players want to be coached and Bill shares that belief. I look forward to working with him on making our team better."
Peterson has been involved in coaching basketball on the collegiate and professional levels since 1978. From 2001 through last season, he was the associate head coach at Colorado State University, where the Rams won the 2003 Mountain West Conference Tournament championship.
From 1998 through 2000, Peterson served as a player development coach and scout for the Dallas Mavericks. He worked to develop young players such as Nowitzki, Nash, Michael Finley and Greg Buckner. He earlier served as a special assistant with the Golden State Warriors to work with Sarunas Marciulionis, one of the first international players to compete in the NBA.
Like many of his colleagues, Peterson considers himself a teacher first and a coach second. He has specialized in helping players learn and perfect the basics. And his philosophy is pretty simple.
"I've kind of got a knack to see what a guy's weaknesses are, or what he's not good at, or what he needs to work on," Peterson said. "I'd say one of my greatest strengths is I have a lot of perseverance. I'm not going to give up. I'm not going to give in. I'm going to keep working with a guy and keep working with him.
"I'm not going to come in and go, 'Aw, he isn't any good; he can't do this, or he can't do that.' I look at it more like, 'Well, you know he can do this, and he's pretty good at this and he's pretty good at that. Maybe we can make him a little better with his left hand. Let's build on his strengths instead of talking about his negatives all the time.'"
Peterson is a graduate of Eckerd (Fla.) College and holds a master's degree in physical education and human relations from Louisiana Tech University.
Peterson's collegiate experience also includes head coaching positions at the University of Alabama - Huntsville (1994-97) and Union (Ky.) College (1983-87), where the Bulldogs averaged 18 wins per year and three consecutive post-season tournament appearances.
He worked as the assistant head coach at McNeese State from 1987-94, and at Bossier (La.) Parish Community College from 1997-99. Peterson began coaching as a student assistant at St. Petersburg (Fla.) Junior College (1978-79) and went on to serve as a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech from 1980-83. It was there that Malone became the first of his famous pupils.
"When Karl came out of high school, he was not eligible," Peterson said. "He had to sit out a year in college. I got him in a routine where he lifted weights and worked out. He used to play on my AAU team, my independent team. Obviously we won all the time. It was fun, and I developed a relationship with him where I took care of him and he trusted me.
"Then the next year when he played, he had some academic issues. He had some issues lifting weights. Karl's high school, Summerfield, was one of the smallest high schools in Louisiana. I think he had 12 people in his senior class. Now he was in a major university at Louisiana Tech and there were 25,000 people there."
Malone discovered there were a lot of things he had to deal with off the floor, and Peterson was there to help him out.
"That was kind of the niche I found," Peterson said. "Just because you're a good player doesn't mean you have all the answers. That was something I specialized in was trying to put myself in their shoes and helping them work through problems and issues and also helping them out on the floor."
As his career progressed, Peterson didn't spend all of his time teaching; he did a great deal of learning, too.
"I've been around and learned from a lot of guys," he said. "When I was with the Mavericks, I learned from 'Nellie' (Don Nelson), obviously. They hired Kiki Vandeweghe for one year, and I learned some stuff from him.
"At all the different places I've been, I've taken different things and learned them and used them to work with the players I've been with."
One of Peterson's first projects in Dallas was Nowitzki, who had spent all of his 19 years in Germany and needed time to adapt to both playing in the NBA and life in the United States.
"DIrk spent hours and hours and hours in the gym," Peterson said. "At night, he'd shoot extra shots and work on his ballhandling. He'd do extra work in the weightroom. It was just a process. I'd tell everybody when I was working with the Mavericks, 'He wasn't good right away. His first year or two in the league, he struggled big-time.'"
Many of the transitions with which Nowitzki struggled came beyond the basketball floor.
"Probably where I helped Dirk more than anything, besides being there with him on those nights in the gym, is with some of the off-the-floor stuff," Peterson said. "He had a huge transition. Not that he was in trouble, but say, if you had a son here and he was 19 and you took him to Germany, you got him a job, you stuck him in an apartment, you stayed with him a week and then you left him, well he'd struggle big-time.
"It's a different culture, different food ... everything's different. So many issues Dirk struggled with were things I could handle. I was an ex-college coach and I was used to dealing with players and their problems."
Peterson remembers one particular day when Nowitzki was beleaguered.
"He'd had a horrible practice, and Nellie was all over him," Peterson recalled. "Everybody was all upset at him. I walked over after practice and asked, 'What's wrong? What's going on?' He had some issue with some furniture that he'd bought and it didn't work out. He didn't know how to deal with it, because he'd never had to deal with anything like that in Germany.
"I picked the phone up and made the phone call and changed what had to happen and boom, it was over with in no time. I said, 'Why didn't you come and tell me?' Well, he wasn't going to do that. But I could tell something was wrong."
Peterson is renowned as a player development coach, but one of the things that excites him most about his job with the Bucks is the opportunity to expand that it offers.
"The position came open here," Peterson said. "Scott Roth is a scout with the Bucks, and I knew him and (Director of Player Personnel) Dave Babcock and (General Manager) Larry Harris a little bit. I came here and was able to get an interview with 'Larry K'. I'm excited about this opportunity. We've got some really good young players who want to learn and want to get better.
"Larry K's been great the time I've been around him. I'm not just a developmental guy; I'm a coach. He's given me a lot of other responsibilities besides that, and I like that a lot. He keeps telling me it's going to broaden my horizons down the road, and I like that."
Even before Bucks training camp officially opened Oct. 2, Peterson was excited about his return to the NBA and his prospects in Milwaukee.
"'Larry K.' is a guy I can give my opinion and he'll listen and say, 'Yeah, I like that' or 'No, I don't,' and then move on," Peterson said. "He's real open. I essentially got the job because my background was working with guys and developing guys, but I think I've got a lot more to add to our staff.
"We have a really good staff. I'm excited about working with the guys I work with every day. I have a lot to learn. I haven't been an NBA coach for a lot of years, but I'm looking forward to this."
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