The intensity with which Carl Taylor coached the Southeast boys basketball team was riveting. He didn’t stalk the sideline, instead standing still until he’d turn to call out a play or glare at a player who didn’t run the play as expected.
His competitive fire burned so deep that long after a game had ended, there was still that same intensity flickering in his eyes.
Taylor, the City League’s winningest boys basketball coach with 318 wins, died Wednesday night in Kansas City, Mo., after a long battle with complications due to diabetes. He was 66.
Al Hobson, his longtime friend and assistant coach of 15 years, said Taylor’s family was there when he died while in hospice care.
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Funeral services in Kansas City are pending. Southeast hopes to have a memorial service this month, athletic director Mark Lamb said.
“What I remember about him is just that intensity,” Heights boys coach Joe Auer said. “I think he woke up ready to compete. That’s just how he approached every day.”
Taylor’s basketball successes are legendary.
While coaching Southeast from 1992-2012, Taylor was 315-146, winning Class 6A titles in 1999, 2003 and 2008.
He coached the 2013-14 season at West, where the Pioneers were 3-18. He resigned following the season due to health concerns.
Taylor also coached at Junction City and Bonner Springs, where he won the 5A title in 1984. In his 36-year coaching career, he was 446-309.
“He’s obviously one of the greatest in the history of our league,” Auer said. “His record speaks for itself.”
“He was an icon for City League basketball, and Southeast in particular,” league athletic director J Means said. “It’s just a big loss.”
Taylor was as successful in what he considered his most important role — readying young men for a life beyond the game.
“Coach Taylor was the epitome of coaching, of what we want for our young men in terms of going beyond the game itself,” said Bill Faflick, who was Southeast’s athletic director before moving on to be the City League AD and now an assistant superintendent for the Wichita public schools. “He taught life lessons through basketball.”
News of Taylor’s death spread quickly Thursday morning, and former players posted their favorite memories of Taylor on social media.
Chuck Gunter, Wichita South’s boys basketball coach, took about a minute to control his emotions before he was able to talk about Taylor, whom he played for at Southeast before graduating in 1996.
“It’s pretty hard,” Gunter said. “He was like a second father. He was like a second mentor that I could always go to. He always insisted on hard work on and off the court. The main thing was the classroom. He instilled that you’re a student first, athlete second.”
If one of Southeast’s top players struggled academically, Taylor didn’t hesitate to sit him. It didn’t matter who the opponent was or if it was the postseason.
“Absolutely not,” Hobson said with a laugh. “He made sure we maintained that, from the time (the player) came in the program until he left. Freshman to varsity, they made their grades or they didn’t participate. The kids knew that.”
Taylor, who Hobson said fought in the infantry in Vietnam, was detail oriented. Taylor was the only person allowed to wash the Buffaloes’ uniforms, and he made sure each of his assistants knew their responsibilities.
He was gruff and had a voice that could carry into the far corners of any room or gym.
Taylor didn’t allow his players to have their hair braided.
“Coach Taylor was old, old school,” said Tyrone Berry, a longtime friend. “He was driven by those values and he did not sway from them.… He wanted his players to be clean-cut, be standout students.”
Lamb saw firsthand how Taylor dealt with his athletes.
“For myself, and I think anybody that’s been associated with Carl, this is very, very sad,” Lamb said. “The impact he had not just on kids, but the impact he had on me. … He was a man who did things the right way. He cared about kids. He turned boys into young men.”
But Taylor wasn’t all intensity and gruffness.
He had a sense of humor and a smile that, when he turned it on you, made you feel special.
“When you really got to know him, he cared so deeply for every student-athlete on his team. Every student in his classes. Every student at the school where he was a teacher or coach,” Faflick said.
“He was a great man.”