Legendary coach Bill Odell spent 16 years in Azusa and made a name for himself as one of the winningest coaches in high school and collegiate history.

Odell had an illustrious coaching career and was able to make a huge impact in every school he coached, including Azusa Pacific. He was able to turn a mediocre basketball program into one of the most dominant in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

“Bill’s legacy goes far beyond wins and losses,” said Azusa Pacific President Dr. R. Wallace. “He has modeled for this community what it means to live as a person of conviction in his role as husband, father, coach and disciple. I am deeply grateful for the strong foundation he has established.”

Odell was able to finish his coaching career with a record of 454-112 and outpaced other legendary coaches Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski in the same span of time. He also retired as one of the only coaches to finish their careers with an 80% winning record since 1991-92 in the NCAA. 

Odell played for the Westmont Warriors from 1960-64, during which he made the All-District team in his senior season. After that, he decided to go on to coaching after finishing his collegiate basketball career and receiving his undergraduate degree in 1964.

In 1964, he started his first coaching job with the Santa Barbara high school basketball team where he coached JV and was assistant varsity coach. He then went back to his former alma mater to coach as an assistant coach in Westmont under head coach Tom Bryon for three years. 

Odell was able to secure his first head coaching job at Northview High where he coached from 1968-71, recording three winning seasons during his first head coaching stint. He was able to win two Montview League Championships, was a two-time Montview League Coach of the Year and compiled a 53-23 record.

Odell moved on to Millikan High, where he spent  20 seasons and solidified himself as one of the winningest high school coaches in Long Beach history. 

He earned several awards including 1989 CIF Coach of the Year, six-time Moore League Coach of the Year, two times Los Angeles Times South Coast coach of the Year and was the first-ever two-time winner of the YMCA High School Coach-of-the-Year award. Overall, Odell compiled a 402-199 record in his 23 years of his high school coaching career. 

After the summer of 1991, he moved on to coach for Azusa Pacific. It was a hazardous move considering the program had only one winning season which was about a decade ago in 1981. 

Azusa had a mediocre basketball program, and it was hard to see someone with minimal collegiate coaching experience to turn this program around. However, Odell was ready for the challenge. 

“I needed a new challenge,” Odell said. “I had done all I could [coaching high school], and I wanted to turn a program around.”

The six years before his arrival the program went 79-113 and he was able to turn the program around fast.

In his first coaching season with Azusa Pacific, he led the Cougars to a 17-14 record, which was the second-best record in their previous 10 years. He was able to post a winning record, but it was the worst record that he ever posted in his Azusa Pacific coaching career.

The next season, he was able to lead his team to a 30-4 record while posting an undefeated record 12-0 in the Golden State Athletic Conference. His undefeated record in the conference was the first and only perfect record in the conference’s history. The team also finished ranking No. 1 in the NAIA for the first time in the program’s history. 

They went on to their first-ever conference title and were able to make it to the first round of the NAIA postseason.

In 1994 the team averaged 98.1 points per game and eclipsed the 100-point barrier 16 times, setting a GSAC record. The team finished 29-5 and lost in the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Tournament. They also went on to win the GSAC Conference Championship back-to-back. 

Since that season, he led the Cougars to 11 more GSAC Conference Champions and 12 more appearances in the NAIA National Tournament. The Cougars were always part of the NAIA Top 25 during his tenure, appearing in 109 of the 111 NAIA Coaches’ Polls, and Top 10 in 75 of the past 90 polls.

He coached the Cougars in the Elite Eight seven times, The Final Four four times, and was part of the National Championship game in 2003. He also coached them to 5-30 win seasons and the program’s best record 35-3 in 2001.

During his tenure, his players achieved 21 NAIA All-Americans, six GSAC Players of the Year, 28 All-GSAC performers and three first-team honors. Some of his former players became coaches, with 26 of them as high school coaches, six of them as college Assistants and seven of them as college head coaches.

Odell was a six-time Coach of the Year winning the award in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2006. He was also named the 2005 NAIA Coach-of-the-Year. He retired in 2007 and remained in Azusa as the Director of Athletics.

Odell served as the Azusa Pacific’s director of athletics from 1996-2011. 

During his tenure as an Athletic Director, he helped Azusa win 15 GSAC All-Sports Award, seven straight Directors’ Cup Award for the best NAIA athletics program in the nation, start four women’s sports, gain acceptance into the PAC-West Conference and Division 2 and establish gender-equal scholarships within the first three years of being Athletic Director.

Odell was inducted to the Millikan High School Coaches Hall of Fame, the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the Azusa Pacific University Hall of Fame in 2009, the NAIA Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Santa Barbara Court of Champions in 2017.

Odell was no doubt one of the best coaches in high school and collegiate sports. He has made a huge impact on Azusa Pacific’s basketball and athletic program. There is no doubt he has made a huge legacy for himself. His greatness will always be part of Cougar history.