He could easily rattle off the number of his coaching wins, the number of state tournament trips or even the big names on his teams.
However, Willie Bowie prefers other statistics that speak to the kind of basketball coach he was at Paseo High School in Kansas City.
“We had a ton of success, and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Bowie said. “My biggest pride was the attempt to mold these young men to be ready for society, whether they went to college or the work force. Ninety percent of them got a job in the work force and the other 10 percent went on to college and were successful.”
The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Bowie with the Class of 2017, as Bowie was one of the state’s most influential basketball coaches. In fact, his induction is part of the Enshrinement in Independence, set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 12 at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center. (For tickets, call 417-889-3100 & see information below.)
He coached Paseo for 23 seasons through 1991, winning more than 400 games. Four of his teams reached the Final Four: 1971 (second in Class L), 1973 (fourth in Class L), 1986 (third in Class 3) and the Anthony Peeler-led 1988 team (second in Class 3).
Bowie’s 1988 squad was the first from Kansas City to win the prospect-rich Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, and enjoyed three consecutive unbeaten years in the Scholastic League. Peeler later starred for the University of Missouri, was a 1992 first-round draft pick and then played 14 seasons in the NBA.
“I enjoyed working with those young men and hoped that I made a difference in their lives,” Bowie said.
The Bastrop, Louisiana native and eldest child of Evelyn and George Bowie Jr. competed in football, basketball and track.
He credits basketball coach Payne Montgomery at Morehouse High School for teaching him the game as well as for building Bowie into an All-Stater his senior year and inspiring his coaching journey.
Teammates also influenced his career. They included Bob Love, later a member of the Chicago Bulls, and All-Star game teammate Elvin Hayes and opponent and Don Chaney – with Hayes later on the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Chaney with the Boston Celtics.
Bowie graduated from Arkansas-Pine Bluff University in 1968 and moved to Kansas City to teach. Paseo High School principal Marvin Brooks offered him the freshman basketball job, and Bowie was promoted a year later.
“I took the job and was grateful to him for giving me the opportunity,” Bowie said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Bowie’s first team won the league’s South Division and league title against Manual High School, the eventual Class M state champion. Paseo finished as the Class L state runner-up to Vashon.
“This inspired our future players to be the best that they could be on and off the court,” Bowie said of that team, which featured Jimmie Blanks, a future Garder-Webb College All-American who played for the Houston Rockets. “From that point on it seemed our success was unlimited.”
Bowie thanks others for Paseo’s success, including sets of brothers from the Blanks, Liggins, Ramsey, Harvey, Smith, Jones, Peeler and Lewis families.
“When I say it was a family affair, I mean it was just that,” Bowie said. “We never played before less than a packed gym at the IL Fieldhouse. The parents were always there to pick up their sons after the games. I am very proud to have cultivated a family atmosphere among the teams. The teaching staff also contributed to the family affair by supporting the basketball team throughout the years.”
Bowie also credits assistants Richard Samuels, Clarence Gant, Thomas Boyd, Melvin Harvey, Raymond Thompson and Coach Bryant. Larry Peeler and Alvin Clark at the Thornberry Boys and Girls Club also were significant.
“Because of Peeler and Clark, my players were well-prepared to compete when I got them,” Bowie said.
He also had tremendous support from his wife of 50 years, Gwen. Their daughter, Phyllis, played at Arkansas Pine-Bluff while their son, Eric, played for the University of Montana teams that won two Big Sky Conference titles – and he gave one of his conference rings to Dad. Eric and Anthony Peeler won the DiRenna Award, given to the best player in western Missouri.
Bowie also won multiple Coach of the Year awards and, while in administrative roles at Kansas City-area schools, earned two IL Athletic Director of the Year awards.
What a career.
“I emphasized character and believing in each other,” Bowie said. “We took the “I” out of win and let the kids know there was no ‘I’ and it was ‘We.’”
Enshrinement in Independence presented by Great Southern Bank
When: Sunday, November 12 — Noon reception, 1 p.m. dinner followed by the program
Where: Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 18011 Bass Pro Dr. in Independence, 64055
Inductees: Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Bill Maas, Kansas City Royals third baseman Kevin Seitzer, St. Joseph Benton and University of Missouri tight end Martin Rucker, former big-leaguer Bob Dernier, sports medicine expert Dr. Jon Browne, former Missouri Valley College and 1960s Boston Patriots star Ron Hall, longtime high school volleyball coach Lori Hanaway, longtime television sports director Frank Boal, Raytown High School swim coach Jim Aziere, former Mizzou Tigers quarterback Phillip Snowden, Platte County High School football coach Chip Sherman, Mizzou supporter Don Walsworth, former Paseo Academy basketball coach Willie Bowie, William Jewell track and field coach Darrel Gourley, retired Smithville High School girls basketball coach Diana Tingler, the Oak Grove High School Wrestling Program and wrestling coach Bob Glasgow as well as Northwest Missouri State University’s 1998 and 1999 national championship football teams.
President’s Award: Kansas City businessman James Roberts
Tables & tickets: Sponsorship tables of 10 are $1,500 and include an autograph print and recognition in the printed program. An individual ticket is $150 and includes a set of trading cards of all inductees. Numerous other sponsorships also are available, including congratulatory ads and trading card recognition.
Call the MSHOF: 417-889-3100