Photo by Howie Magner
It was Marquette Media Day, so it came with the usual questions of head coach Buzz Williams.
How would the Golden Eagles deal with losing key players? Which current player would start where? How about the new Big East?
All good questions. All important ones. And, in a possible sign of progress for Marquette, not one query regarding offseason job offers or where Williams would coach next.
And yet, I couldn’t help being curious about something entirely tangential.
What the heck was Buzz Williams doing on Twitter?
This, I’ll grant you, is not exactly pertinent to Marquette’s NCAA tournament chances, so I wasn’t going to bring it up in the press conference. It wouldn’t be fair to others in attendance, nor to the coach whose brief opening statement ended with the words “I don’t want to be inefficient with our time.”
Yes, if there’s one thing you notice in five years of watching Buzz Williams, it’s that he despises distractions. Focus isn’t just a trait, but a mantra. Surely, Twitter doesn’t fit into that type of puzzle.
He’s not a media member who needs to stay up on breaking news. He’s not a pundit. He’s certainly not frivolous. And he’s certainly not a pop star. (The world’s top 3 Twitter accounts belong to Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. This does not strike me as Buzz’s kind of crowd.)
Still, there it is: @TeamCoachBuzz, with some 15,000 followers in about four months of life.
So after the press conference, and after talking to some Marquette players, I noticed Williams sitting and chatting with a few other media members. So I headed over to join the crowd. And promptly discovered that he was already discussing his social media adventure.
Perhaps I’d underestimated the pertinence.
“It was talked about for a long time,” Williams said of joining the Twitterati. “A lot of people had been asking me to do it, to say all the cornball stuff I say, and I liked that part of it.”
“I was unsure if I was willing to give away any time to it. And then I was fearful of saying things that I would regret.”
For public figures, Twitter is basically a 24-hour open microphone, and at times, a particularly hot one. Say one controversial thing, and stuff happens. Viral happens.
So maybe it won’t surprise you to learn that Williams mulled over the Twitter question for about a year and a half. “I resisted it for a long time, because I think it can be dangerous,” he said.
That’s part of the reason he shares the account with his wife, Corey, who also sends out tweets. “I didn’t want it to be about me all the time,” he said. “And I thought by including Corey and letting her join, that probably took a little pressure off me, probably held me more accountable because I knew she was looking at it.”
Together, they’ve evolved the account into a mix of tweets about the team, words of motivation and inspiration, pictures of the Williams kids decked out in Marquette gear, pictures of Williams and his players decked out in suits.
It’s the type of thing that could make for a good recruiting tool, though Williams says he wants it to be more than that. “I just want to keep the slant of it more toward helping others instead of being an infomercial,” he said. “There are coaches paying [other] guys to do it. I don’t want that. I want it to be authentic. I don’t want it to be an infomercial. I don’t want the [sports information director] doing it. I don’t want to pay a guy on the side to do it. I don’t want to send him texts of, ‘Tweet this.’ That seems cumbersome.”
So far, he says, so good.
“I think it can be a positive and I think you can help people,” Williams explained. “There are people saying, like, heartfelt things to me, and I appreciate that.”
Of course, the season hasn’t started yet. Marquette hasn’t lost a game yet. Fans have had very few reasons to be angry with Williams yet. And once they do, some won’t be shy in letting him hear about it.
“I’ve been praying about how to handle that,” he said. “Because, I mean, I get some people saying some really strange things to me now. That was Corey’s objection to it: ‘You’re gonna attack those people that say something about one of your guys.’ And I’m like, ‘No I won’t.’ She’s like, ‘Yes you will.’
“You can’t lose your job because some idiot said something. So I’m not sure.”
Williams said another coach told him that he just doesn’t look at his Twitter mentions during the season. At this, I told Williams how Aaron Rodgers just walks away from his Twitter account entirely during Packers season, just doesn’t tweet again to his million-plus followers until the season is over. This was news to Williams.
“I wonder if that’s what I should do,” Williams mused.
But as of now, the account’s still active, and it will probably stay that way. Because once he focuses on something…
Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. Hear me chat with fellow MilMag staff on “No Revisions,” our new weekly radio show that airs noon Tuesdays on WMSE. And listen to me talk sports with Mitch Teich once a month on WUWM's "Lake Effect."