This was similar to being recruited out of high school all over again. Only this time, the process was swift and the response near-immediate.
The Kings called. Corliss Williamson listened, conferred with family about a career-altering opportunity and offered an emphatic "yes" to Kings coach Michael Malone.
The Kings' first-round pick in 1995 and one of the Sacramento era's most popular players, Williamson on Wednesday night agreed to join Malone's staff as an assistant coach. His family is in the early process of packing to move from his native Arkansas, where for the past three seasons he was the men's coach at the University of Central Arkansas.
He will arrive in Sacramento during Labor Day weekend for his first tour on an NBA bench as a coach.
"I'm coming home to my NBA family," Williamson said by phone. "It felt like being recruited, and it felt great. I'm very flattered and was caught off guard. I didn't expect this. I've always wanted to get back into the NBA and coach, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. I'm still in awe with the opportunity. Of all places to coach ."
Williamson is the next piece in a sweeping change for the Kings, from new principal owner Vivek Ranadive to general manager Pete D'Alessandro to Malone. Williamson joins Brendan Malone, Dee Brown, Chris Jent and Micah Nori as assistants in their first season with the Kings.
Williamson, a forward who steered Arkansas to the 1994 NCAA championship, played 12 NBA seasons. He started and ended his career in Sacramento, playing for three other teams in between. Known as "Big Nasty," Williamson averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 466 games with the Kings, becoming a fan favorite for his gritty play on the court and generosity off it.
Williamson is the only two-time recipient of the Kings' Oscar Robertson Triple-Duty Award, bestowed to the player who best exemplifies excellence in and out of the arena. Williamson was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2002 with Detroit, where he won an NBA title in 2004. He returned to Sacramento in 2005 and retired in 2007.
Retired Kings executive Jerry Reynolds recently called Williamson one of the franchise's "all-time greats."
"He'd be on my all-time 'great teammate' team any time," Reynolds said Friday. "He could come off the bench, be a starter, get rebounds, score. He was a terrific teammate. Everyone liked playing with him. He was tough-minded, would take on any role, and he was just great in the community."
Said Malone in a statement: "Corliss brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to our staff. He's a high-character individual, long-respected in Sacramento and around the game of basketball for his intelligence, integrity and work ethic. He'll be a great asset and role model for our young players."
Williamson said his wife, Michelle, and sons Chasen (18), Creed (10) and C.J. (8) share his enthusiasm, even though they're leaving the comforts of Arkansas.
The initial plan was to coach Chasen this season at Central Arkansas.
"Son gave me the OK on joining the Kings," Williamson said. "I retired to be closer to family, to watch the kids grow. It's hard to say goodbye to my college players, but they understand. And my son said he was fine with me going, too. He wants me to have my dream job."
Williamson said he paid close attention to the Kings' ownership-relocation saga that unfolded during the spring.
"The possibility of the Kings moving, it was heartbreaking," Williamson said. "When I found out they were staying, I was so happy. That's such a wonderful feeling. It's a great city that deserves to keep the Kings. The city, we have mutual respect for each other. I'm excited to get there. I'm ready to work."