College of the Ozarks extends their deepest sympathies to the family, friends, former players, and former colleagues on the passing of former legendary Head Basketball Coach of the Lady Bobcats, George Wilson. The entire C of O community – but especially our athletic department – is mourning this great loss. Coach Wilson was a special individual who earned an enduring legacy because of his heart for others and for the game of basketball. He impacted countless lives as a mentor, friend, and iconic Southwest Missouri basketball coach on both the high school and college level.
Current C of O Lady Cats Head Coach and former player turned assistant of Coach Wilson, Becky Vest Mullis, shared this statement commemorating Coach Wilson: “Coach Wilson was a legend, not just for his lengthy accomplishments as a basketball coach, but for his amazing ability to relate with people. Humble, kind, compassionate, hilarious, and fiercely competitive, Coach Wilson drew people to him because of how he made them feel about themselves. His mission was to care for his players and his students and to give each of them an opportunity to be successful. The late Billy Graham said of coaches: ‘A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.’ I believe it is fair to say Coach Wilson surpassed even that. I am forever grateful to Coach Wilson for taking a chance on a 22-year-old assistant coach and believing in me more than I ever believed in myself. He was, simply the best."
Wilson began his 47-year basketball coaching career in 1963. Following 31 successful years of coaching high school boys and 16 years of college women, Coach Wilson retired in the Spring of 2013 with an impressive 1,006 wins and 384 losses.
Under his 16-year tenure, the College of the Ozarks’ Lady Bobcats developed into a national powerhouse program, winning the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference 13 times along with 15 conference tournament championships. In addition, Coach Wilson led the Lady Bobcats to 15 National Tournament appearances, including four quarterfinal finishes, one semi-final finish, and four National Tournament Runner-Up titles. Wilson coached many outstanding players over the course of his career, including 17 All-Americans, 10 of whom were First Team All-Americans, and 15 Academic All-Americans.
In 2008, Wilson was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. In 2013, he collected his 1,000th career win, was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, and was named the WBCA NAIA Coach of the Year.
Longtime C of O Men’s Coach and Hall of Famer, Al Waller, said this about his years working alongside George Wilson and his close relationship with him since that time, “George Wilson is an amazing success story. I know when he accepted the job as our women's basketball coach, he had no idea that it would lead him to over 1000 career wins and a legacy that will live on forever. He used to love telling people that the amazing part of his 1000 wins is that when he started his career, he had 100 losses before he had 100 wins. His coaching philosophy was always; ‘work hard on fundamentals, keep the game simple, and have fun playing.’ His players always played hard for him because they loved him, they knew he loved them, and they didn't want to let him down.”
Coach Wilson’s many coaching accolades were impressive, but the lasting impact he had on his family, players, colleagues, and those around him, will be what carries on his legacy. He was a man of integrity that cared deeply about those around him and the respect he earned throughout his life is unparalleled. As an athletic ambassador for the College of the Ozarks, he embodied the values and mission of the school and represented it well in every circle he entered. While his primary impact was centered around the basketball arena, his influence is widespread and will continue to be felt for years to come.
As colleague Steve Shepherd, Head Men’s Basketball Coach of the Bobcats, reflected on his time spent with Coach Wilson he commented, “Coach Wilson lived a remarkable life and we were all blessed to be a part of it. He was a family man, coach, author, and friend. He genuinely cared about the lives and successes of everyone in his life. He was a coaching legend, one of the all-time greats. His passion for teaching and coaching was only surpassed by his love for family and friends. His leadership produced performance and inspiration in his student athletes. His impact will live on in the lives of all he touched. In the midst of our sadness, we are grateful for the cherished memories and lasting legacy of Coach Wilson who will forever live in our hearts.”
A celebration of life for Coach George Wilson will be held at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of the College of the Ozarks at a later date. Arrangements are still pending. The family has requested that memorials be given to the College of the Ozarks Women’s Basketball Program and may be sent to: College of the Ozarks, Attention - Women’s Basketball Office, PO Box 17, Point Lookout, MO 65726.