William "Billy" Wells
Lenoir-Rhyne head men’s basketball and golf coach
William “Billy” Wells died Thursday at his home in
Southport after a lengthy illness.
Wells, who was 83,
guided the Lenoir-Rhyne men’s basketball team from 1957
to 1965 and compiled a 166-63 record and still holds the
highest winning percentage (.752) in Lenoir-Rhyne men’s
Two of his teams, in 1957 and 1958, were invited to
Kansas City to play in the NAIA championship game. The
1957 trip was LRU’s first trip to Kansas City, and the
following year, the Bears’ appeared again. The 1957 team
finished with a record of 24-4, and the 1958 team went
24-6. Well’s 1962-63 team finished 26-5.
Wells was inducted into the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of
Fame in 1981, the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame in
2010 and later into the Western N.C. Sports Hall of
Lenoir-Rhyne’s Executive Director of Intercollegiate
Athletics Neill McGeachy was a point guard for Wells.
“He recruited me in 1961,” McGeachy said. “I signed with
the Bears that fall and we’ve stayed in touch without
exception. He coached eight years at Lenoir-Rhyne, and I
was fortunate enough to be there for four of those.
Ironically that was the same eight years that Al McGuire
was the head coach at Belmont Abbey so the Carolinas
Conference had two of the most colorful coaches in
McGuire and Wells.”
Wells was also well known for his 25-point performance
while playing basketball at Lenoir-Rhyne when the Bears
defeated North Carolina 79-78 in three overtimes on Dec.
Wells was named to the all-conference team all four
seasons with the Bears and finished his career with
After graduating from college, Wells became the head
boys basketball coach at St. Stephens High where he
spent five seasons.
Along with his head coaching responsibilities at St.
Stephens, Wells assisted Lenoir-Rhyne coach John “Pappy”
Hamilton during the 1956-57 season. The Bears lost their
first game of the season, then won 24 straight, losing
only in the tournament and finished 24-2.
While at St. Stephens, he coached Raeford Wells, who
went on to become Lenoir-Rhyne’s first three-time
All-American basketball player and still remains the
school’s all-time scoring leader with 2,628 points.
“I think the thing that set him aside as a coach was his
extraordinary motivation teaching technique and he was a
winner,” McGeachy said. “He was a man’s man, and he was
an exceptional golfer. He was small in stature, but he
was always on a big stage. Billy Wells was an iconic
figure in Lenoir-Rhyne athletics history.”
After stepping down as coach in 1965, Wells left Hickory
and went into the seafood restaurant business that
eventually lead him to the North Carolina coast where he
passed away on Thursday.
Wells was born June 10, 1929 in Haywood County, N.C.,
son of the late B.J. Wells and Bonnie Murray Wells. He
was preceded in death by three brothers, Jimmy, Ted, and
Survivors include his wife Evelyn Johnson Wells of
Southport; sons, Dusty Wells and wife Cissy of Texas,
Randy Wells of Morganton, Michael Patrick McCabe of
Wilmington and Daniel Timothy McCabe of Pennsylvania;
daughters, Taffy Rice and husband Andy of Hickory,
Shanna Roberson and husband Thomas of Southport, Frances
Hannah, Lorie Busic and husband Nick of West Virginia,
Karen Stanley and husband Stan of Texas, and Patty
McCabe of Oak Island; sister Bonnie Moone and husband
Art of Canton; 18 grandchildren, and 6 great
No funeral services are planned but a memorial service
will be held at a later date.
& White Funeral and Cremation Service, Southport