DECATUR — When Mike Williams got to Decatur, he heard a lot about the MacArthur boys basketball program — who was good now, who had played for them in the past, and who was coming up.
But no one was talking about the MacArthur girls basketball team.
There's a reason for that. Before Williams became coach, the Generals girls hadn't won any postseason hardware — or many games at all — since back-to-back regional titles in 2009 and 2010.
This year, MacArthur set a school record with 24 wins, won a regional title, and Williams — in his second season coaching the Generals — won his second straight Herald & Review Macon County Girls Basketball Coach of the Year award. In those two seasons, MacArthur is 43-22 — even better than the highly successful MacArthur boys under Ron Ingram in that stretch (39-24).
"Nobody looks at the MacArthur girls," Williams said. "And now over the last two years the MacArthur girls have the best record (in Decatur). I don’t want (MacArthur boys basketball) Ron Ingram to kill me for that, but those girls have been busting their butts."
And, Williams said, they've had to deal with him.
"Dealing with me is tough — I’m the first to say that," Williams said. "So if you get through me, when you get to college, you will be ready."
MacArthur's season didn't get off to a great start. The Generals started 3-6 over their first nine games, but Williams didn't panic.
"(MacArthur forward Quincenia Jackson) was sick for several games and we had to fix some things internally with some kids," Williams said. "Once I introduced a couple kids to the bench, they understood things were going to be done my way and then we went on to win 14 games in a row."
The winning streak vaulted the Generals into contention for the conference title, but Williams would trade some of those consecutive wins to get a victory against MacArthur's key conference rivals.
"Honestly I would change that streak to beat Springfield High or Sacred Heart-Griffin," he said. "I’ve been here two years and those are the two teams I haven’t beaten. The last game here SHG beat us by seven and we really wanted to beat Civic Memorial (in the sectional semifinals) to be able to play (SHG) one last time."
The Generals were led by a trio of senior starters — Jayda Dees, Kyyawna Johnson and Mariah Shores — and Jackson, the Macon County Girls Player of the Year, who averaged 16.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
After playing under Williams for two seasons, Jackson said she appreciates his drive to win.
"There are times where he yells at us and we want to say stuff back, but we have to listen and what he says goes," she said. "I would say he is still the fiery coach, but he calms down a little bit and lets us play. He sees that we are doing what we are supposed to do and when we are doing it right he lets us be and have some fun."
Williams said MacArthur's success has been far from a one-man show. His assistant coaches, Fred Jackson, Sean Flaherty and Gabriel Williams, his daughter, also have to put up with him.
"This doesn’t happen unless Fred is with me — my right-hand man is Fred Jackson," Williams said. "The hours he spends in the gym with me ... he also gets on me when he feels like I’m being a little too hard on the kids and we bang heads sometimes, but talk things out. It works for us."
Flaherty, a former Eisenhower girls head coach and 2011 Macon County Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, joined the Generals' staff this season.
"Coach Flaherty did all the scouting reports and film and that stuff was great," Williams said. "I wasn’t able to do as much as I thought I would and he went out and did that stuff for us."
Williams hopes that some younger players step up to support Jackson down low as the Generals continue their improvement.
"I think we've got a great leader in Quincenia and I’m expecting some big things from (guard) Taya Davis," Williams said. "It will be her junior year and it's her time to shine. She’s got to show that she can handle the pressure and take the big shots.
"(Freshman forward) Aniya Cunningham has come around a lot in practice and she’s going to be in the mix to help Q and (senior transfer) Nadia Williams inside. It will be a three-headed monster down there."