TOPEKA — You can say Kyle Taylor is courageous. Or you can say that by helping coach the Andover Central boys basketball team during the Class 5A tournament, he's just doing what comes naturally.
You'd be right on both accounts.
Taylor, who just turned 26, suffered a seizure he doesn't remember Sunday night while eating dinner at a friend's house. He was taken to a hospital in El Dorado and given the news that a small tumor was growing near his brain.
How would you handle such news?
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Taylor, son of one of the state's most successful coaches, took a couple of days to rest and reflect. He talked to his parents and his friends. He asked Jaguars coach Jesse Herrmann about continuing to coach because, well, it's what he wants to do.
"Being there in the hospital,'' Taylor said, "I was thinking that I'd be a lot more disappointed if I'm laying in a bed somewhere and don't get to be with this team in the state tournament.''
So there he was, sitting next to Herrmann on the Jaguars' bench during their first-round game against Topeka West on Thursday night.
Basketball is Taylor's life, as if he had a choice.
His dad, Terry, has coached high school basketball in Kansas for 37 years, the past three at Abilene. He led Augusta to a Class 4A championship in 2002 and guided Parsons to a 5A title in 1987. Abilene won 16 games this season, giving Terry Taylor 503 for his career.
"Kyle was at my feet from a young age,'' Terry said. "He was born on a Wednesday, March 1st in 1984, and we had a big game the next day and won a sub-state championship game. He was at the state tournament when he was a week old.''
No wonder Kyle Taylor had visions of basketball bouncing in his head from the time he could grow teeth.
"I was always around coaching,'' he said. "It can be kind of a crazy profession at times, but I saw how much fun it was and I always enjoyed being around it growing up.''
Taylor admits to trepidation as he adapts to such harrowing news. He was never sick a day in his life and felt fine Sunday as he chatted with his friends. That's the last thing he remembers. The seizure, doctors told him, was associated with glioma, a type of tumor that normally starts in the spine or the brain.
"They were asking me all these questions at the hospital and my answer to all of them was 'no,' '' Taylor said. "I had never even been to a doctor, really. I had no headaches leading up to this, no blurry vision. Nothing you would think of that might be a problem.''
People told Taylor he shouldn't wait for surgery — it's planned for next week — even with the big basketball tournament coming up. It was important, they said, to quickly learn the nature of the tumor.
But after three years as an assistant at Andover Central, he wanted to be a part of this moment.
"He has a great basketball mind,'' Herrmann said of Taylor. "He's one of those guys who just loves high school basketball. And he especially loves these state tournaments. If we weren't playing, he'd be somewhere every day just watching games. A coach's son usually picks up a lot about the game whether he wants to or not.''
Taylor was a decent player on Augusta's championship team, the first title for the Orioles in nearly 60 years. He later became a walk-on at Kansas State under Jim Wooldridge after a couple of years of playing junior college basketball. What he lacked in ability, he made up for in smarts.
"He's going to pass up his dad in this business,'' Terry Taylor said. "He has way more knowledge than I did at that age from going to camps, clinics and all those things.''
Kyle Taylor learned how to work hard early, helping on the 200-acre farm his dad and grandfather have operated near Chapman for many years. He was the stereotypical farm kid — up early during the summer working chores.
"We grow wheat, soybean, milo and we have some cattle,'' he said. "Farming is another thing I have a passion for.''
These are confusing days. So Taylor, a math teacher at Andover Central, is doing what he can to live in the moment. The Jaguars are his priority; he said he's leaving his health in the hands of God.
"I feel pretty good, really,'' he said. "I've been a little tired and I didn't sleep much in the hospital either Sunday or Monday night.''
Taylor underwent numerous tests in El Dorado, then was transferred to Via Christi-St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Wichita for more extensive work.
He said doctors told him they won't be sure whether the tumor is benign or malignant until after surgery. He is taking anti-seizure medication and doing his best to cope with what has been a frightening experience.
"Kyle has a really wide network of friends and a great support group of great kids he runs around with,'' Terry Taylor said. "He's in a church group in Wichita and I think we're all still upbeat and hoping things go well. We're still in a fact-finding mode. We are probably going to get another opinion on all of this either (today) or Friday and go from there.''
The bottom line, though, is that Kyle Taylor wants to coach. He's been with this talented group of Andover Central players for a while now and believes the Jaguars can do something big here this week. He doesn't want to be away.
"I stopped by our practice (Tuesday) and I even watched some film of Topeka West in the hospital,'' Taylor said. "I don't think my nurses were too crazy about me doing that in the middle of the night when they wanted me to be sleeping.''
He's a coach. And that's what coaches do, especially when they're with a team that's in a state tournament.
"I think knowing what being at the state tournament will do for Kyle's mental health is going to be good for all of us,'' Herrmann said. "I think it will be a little bit of a shot for our kids to realize that, hey, coach is dealing with a lot right now but this is a really big deal to him.''
Taylor said he probably wouldn't be as animated as usual on the bench. His doctors want him to take it easy.
"I can't control my situation right now,'' Taylor said. "It's in God's hands, really. It's not like shooting a basketball, where the more I do it the better I'll get. I'm going to have to trust the doctors and see what happens — see what is God's will.''