State Colleges

Ex-coach Foster restarted UM basketball program

Bill Foster, 79, who restarted the University of Miami basketball program after a 15-year absence in 1985, passed away on Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

The native of Hemingway, S.C. is the only coach to serve as the coach of three current Atlantic Coast Conference institutions (Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech) and is one of the few coaches in NCAA history to have multiple 20-win seasons at four different schools.

He guided Clemson to the Elite Eight of the 1980 NCAA Tournament in the school’s first NCAA invitation.

Born on April 1, 1936, Foster was a coach at the college level for 30 years at five institutions and compiled a record of 532-325. He had 21 winning seasons and 11 seasons with at least 20 victories.

He coached Clemson and Virginia Tech to the NCAA Tournament and had a 4-2 record in NCAA Tournament games for his career.

A noted program builder, he started the basketball program at the Division I level at Charlotte and resurrected UM’s program.

He was also known for his ability to take big men, many of whom were lightly recruited, and make them into star players. His coaching helped turn Cornbread Maxwell (UNC Charlotte), Tree Rollins, Larry Nance and Horace Grant (Clemson) and Ace Custis (Virginia Tech) into players with long professional careers. Maxwell, Rollins, Nance and Grant were all NBA first-round draft choices.

Foster actually began his coaching career while he was a senior at Carson Newman College in Tennessee. In his final year as a cum laude student, he coached the Carson Newman freshman team to a 19-1 record. Foster became the coach at Marion (South Carolina) High School in 1959 and led that program to a 42-21 record in three years.

From Marion High, Foster became basketball coach and Director of Athletics at Shorter College in Rome, Ga.

He coached the NAIA program to a 110-31 record in five years and won at least 22 games each of his last four seasons.

After five seasons at Shorter, he took a post as assistant coach at The Citadel in 1967 and remained with the Charleston, South Carolina-based military school for two seasons.

Foster became the coach at Clemson in April of 1975 and he held the position until the end of the 1983-84 season. Despite inheriting a program on a three-year probation, he registered a record of 156-106. The 156 victories still rank second in Clemson history.

Foster left Clemson in 1984 to restart the UM basketball program. He spent the 1984-85 season developing the program. The Hurricanes began competition in 1985-86.

Foster posted a 78-71 record with UM, including a 19-win season in 1988-89. The victory included an 87-86 victory over defending NCAA champion Kansas.

Foster was a 1958 graduate of Carson Newman. He earned a Masters degree from the University of Tennessee in 1961.

He is survived by his wife, Linda, daughters Leslie and Laura and many grandchildren.