Don’t question coach Carl Taylor about his decision to come out of retirement and take over the West High boys basketball program. Don’t suggest his legacy as the winningest coach in City League history has been tarnished.
Even though West has three wins.
Taylor’s health has limited him to sitting on the bench because he can’t stand for long stretches at a time. And a minor bout with pneumonia forced him to miss practice on Wednesday, while an appendectomy kept him out of coaching for more than a week in January.
You know what hasn’t changed? Taylor’s passion for coaching.
“I like coaching,” said Taylor, 65. “Coaching them, that’s what I enjoy. You can see them making progress. They’re trying. They just need to get over that hump.”
Taylor, who won three Class 6A titles in 20 seasons at Southeast and has a City League-record 318 wins, is still a gruff disciplinarian. He still insists on good grades, refusing to play those who don’t buy into the academic side.
And he still has his booming voice.
“He’s always been a barker,” said West athletic director Phil Daignault, who resigned as West’s coach after last season and also spent time as one of Taylor’s assistants at Southeast. “His bark’s a little louder because of the distance. He has to have the kids sprint to him, rather than him walking out to them. They’ve made concessions — they’ll grab chairs and surround him in timeouts.”
But just like always, Taylor commands their respect.
One such example occurred during a West practice when Taylor, who was outside the gym, heard someone say a mild cuss word.
“He jumped into that gym — ‘We don’t have no cussing in my gym! Who did it? Drop and do pushups!’ ” Daignault recalled.
Well, the person who cursed was a West assistant coach, who immediately dropped and did pushups.
“He brings a sense of authority and respect,” Daignault said.
Two of Taylor’s assistants are former Southeast players — J.J. Selmon and Mike Atwater.
Selmon, who is coaching in high school for the first time, was looking to get into coaching, and it was a no-brainer to reach out to Taylor.
“I respected Coach Taylor when I played for him at Southeast,” Selmon said. “I always respected how he tried to teach us more than just basketball. He taught us about life and life lessons and prepared us for life after high school.”
The West coaches are focused on such teachings right now, along with fundamentals.
“He helps us out with defense,” West senior Bryce Money said. “If you don’t play defense, you won’t play for him.… He pushes us to do our best at all times. He’ll let us know if we’re doing something wrong and immediately correct us so we won’t make as many mistakes.”
The Pioneers are winless in the City League, but West finished third at the Colby midseason tournament and also beat Goddard in January.
No one figured even Taylor could turn West into a winning program in one season.
“It’s tough,” Taylor said. “You have to lay a foundation. First of all, they have to understand me. Do I mean what I say? I don’t favor nobody. They can’t play with Fs. They have to get their grades right. They have to have respect, discipline.
“They’re looking better. Compared to the teams in the league, we don’t have as much talent. They scrapped against Northwest and Heights, and then Heights just took over. Too much Jimmies and Joes.
“I can’t ask for anything more. They’re working hard. They’re good kids. Just their basketball skills have to come up to another level.”
Selmon agreed. With Taylor at the helm, West will succeed.
“He’s very effective,” Selmon said. “If they listen and apply those things, they’ll eventually have success on the court.”