FORMER FAMU CAGE MENTOR WILLIE BOOKER DIES
Booker led Rattlers to pair of 20-win seasons, MEAC Tourney title in 1991
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (August 7) – Former Florida A&M men’s basketball coach Willie Booker, who led the Rattlers to their first-ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament title in 1991, died over the weekend in his native Central Florida. He was 66.
Booker, a product of Lakeland, Florida, fashioned a 137-125 record at FAMU from 1984-85 to 1992-93, leading the Rattlers to the finals of the MEAC Tournament four times during a five-year span between 1988 and 1992.
When he was appointed head coach at FAMU in the fall of 1984, the Rattlers were an independent, having left the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference following the 1982-83 school year. Booker led FAMU to 34 wins in those first three years (34-50), but the Rattlers fortunes soon changed for the better.
In the next six seasons, the Rattlers would compile a 103-75 record, which included the school’s first-ever 20-win seasons in the Division One era – 22-8 in 1987-88 and 20-10 in 1988-89.
Those would be FAMU’s last 20-win campaigns until this past season’s 21-14 finish under Coach Mike Gillespie.
FAMU reached the MEAC Tournament finals in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1992, winning their first-ever tournament in 1991. The Rattlers advanced to an NCAA Play-In game against Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe).
Booker’s clubs produced several Black College All-American performers, including guard Aldwin Ware, who led Division One in steals in 1988; guard Terry Giles, as well as forwards Leonard King and DeLon Turner.
A junior college All-America cager at the former Gibbs Junior College in St. Petersburg, Fla., Booker completed his collegiate basketball career at New Mexico State.
Prior to his arrival in Tallahassee, Booker coached on the junior college level in the Northeast, spending nine seasons at Boston’s Roxbury CC (150-37) and one season at Mercer CC in Trenton (19-9), compiling a 169-46 record
Booker had just recently been appointed director of athletics at Palm Beach (Fla.) Community College and was reportedly in the process of completing his move from Orlando at the time of his passing.
Coach Willie Booker
Year-by-Year • At Florida A&M • 1984-85 to 1992-93
Season W L Comments
1984-85 10 18 Independent
1985-86 12 16 Independent
1986-87 12 16 MEAC Tny/Opening Round
1987-88 22 8* MEAC Tourney Finalist
1988-89 20 10 MEAC Tourney Finalist
1989-90 18 11 MEAC Tourney Quarterfinals
1990-91 17 14 MEAC Tny Champ/NCAA Play-In
1991-92 16 14 MEAC Tourney Finalist
1992-93 10 18 MEAC Tny/Opening Round
Nine (9) Years 137-125