For nearly three decades, Dean Willis has been one of Huntsvilles most acclaimed doctors in the specialized field of pain management. The Chief Medical Officer at Alabama Pain Clinic since 1986, he has also served as Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Alabama-Huntsvilles College of Nursing since 1997. Deans at the top of profession, and hes one of the good guys to boot, said his friend, Jack Doss. He was a pretty fair basketball player 40 years ago, too. He was indeed. In fact, Willis was the acknowledged leader of the mens varsity basketball program at UAH while playing for his father, Kayo Willis, who came from Murray State in Kentucky and coached the Chargers to 205 victories, five Southern States Conference championships, five SSC tournament titles and four trips to the NAIA tournament in 11 memorable seasons, beginning in 1973-74. Kayos point guard, Dean compiled 1,291 points as a four-year starter from 1973-77. In his career, he led the team in assists (740), steals (360) and most consecutive games played (116). As a senior, he was named to the All-SSC and All-America teams. His father, now deceased, was inducted into the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. Dean Willis was recently asked to identify the most influential person in his life. This is part of his eloquent response: Its difficult for most athletes to narrow it down. There are so many events, victories and defeats, buzzer beaters and crucial turnovers, heartbreaking losses and championships, thousands of hours spent practicing in lonely silent gymnasiums and stands filled with cheering fans and, of course, teammates you never forget. But for most, it turns out to be their coaches. There are many coaches some who taught you the fundamentals, some who taught the value of being physically fit and mentally tough enough to gut out a fourth quarter or overtime, some who verbally kicked your butt whether you deserved it or not, and some who made you believe enough in yourself to achieve beyond your childhood dreams. For many, its literally a sea of faces and names. But for me, its one face and one name Kayo Willis, my father and my coach. No matter what was taking place in my life, he was the steady influence urging me to succeed. He was often overbearing and seemingly heartless in his push for perfection, but after the cheers and newspaper headlines faded, everyone who ever played for Coach Willis came to know, as I did, why he was so demanding and relentless. When you played for him, you were the best you could possibly be or you didnt play. Believe me, there were times he sat my butt on the bench to give me a chance to decide whether I really wanted to play or not. Id have to confess there were times I didnt care much for Coach Willis But he didnt just coach basketball. He coached life. He didnt just coach basketball players, he taught young men how to succeed. He built character which comes from discipline and hard work, something often missing in the lives of so many young athletes today. That kind of tough love from a coach is a gift, not often appreciated at the time its given, but later cherished for a lifetime. So although I may have felt like I hated Coach Willis at times, I always loved my dad. And now as a man with a family of my own and many life successes, I know how much he loved me and how much God blessed me to have him as my father and my coach. Now I can only hope that God will help me pass along to my children what Coach Willis gave to me. Dean Willis and his wife, Lori, have five children: Adam, Ashley, Connor, Dalton, and Saylor.