This is the first of a three part series.
Buffalo Island Central head basketball coach Bill Taylor has enjoyed more than his fair share of success over the years in the Arkansas high school coaching ranks. Taylor, who coached Delta to the 1989 State Title, has now won back to back state championships the past two seasons at BIC. I had an opportunity to sit down with the former Bay High School and Arkansas State University standout to discuss everything from his boyhood days at Bay to his future plans.
Question: There are rumors circulating that you are looking for another job. Any truth to these rumors?
Answer: I am not actively looking for another job. I am not saying that at some point in my career I wouldn't make a change. I am happy here at BIC and I believe we can win again. If there is an opportunity out there that would be better for my family, I will have to look at it, but I am not out looking for another job.
Q. Did you ever envision matching your brother's (Gaylon Taylor) back to back state titles at the same school?
A. That wasn't a goal. I don't believe you could set your goals that high. To win one state championship in a career is amazing. To win back to back titles is another level. And to win back to back at the same school your brother did, the odds of that are incalculable. I never thought about matching him.
Q. What made you want to be a coach?
A. Because I couldn't play anymore. I wasn't a good enough player to be a college player. I knew when I was in the ninth grade I was going to be a coach. I love sports. I don't hunt, fish. I don't have very many hobbies. I didn't get into coaching for the noble reason of leading young people. I got into it to win. Now I love being around kids, and I love leading them now, but when I first got out of college, I wasn't looking to mold lives. I just wanted to win games. But now I do think I do a good job of leading my guys. I wasn't good enough to keep playing, so the next best thing was to coach.
Q. Would you ever consider coaching at your Alma Mater (Bay) if the opportunity presented itself?
A. Not now. At one point in my career when Linda and I and our kids were living in south Arkansas, I would have looked to get back to Bay. After one year of coaching, I was offered the job at Bay, but I knew I wasn't ready. I didn't want to put myself in a situation I couldn't handle. I just wasn't ready to coach in a conference that good at that time. The idea of going back to my hometown has long since passed. There was a time when I would have dearly loved to coach there, but I am very happy here at BIC.
Q. What is your coaching philosophy?
A. My coaching philosophy is best summed up in one word, and that is flexibility. I think my teams do a good job of doing whatever they have to do. We game plan differently defensively for each opponent. We can play up tempo or at a slower pace. I am not married to any one system. I think that is kind of looked down on by some coaches, because I don't play man to man all the time. But I think my willingness to change and adapt to whatever the situation calls for is one of my strengths. That may not work for everybody. I have a few core things that I believe in that we do everyday in practice. But the big thing is flexibility.
Q. I have never understood why most coaches won't foul in the last few seconds when their team is up three points. So many times the other team makes that shot and sends the game into overtime. You are just the opposite. Why?
A. Because if they make that shot, they take that momentum into overtime. I am a gambler in my life, and I will take some chances. I think it is a bad gamble to let someone jump up and take a three to tie you. We tried to do that at the end of the state championship game against Altheimer, but we just couldn't get to their shooter in time. Fortunately for us, Altheimer missed the shot. We practice that situation a lot. I agree with you 100 percent about fouling, even though some people may think giving up the shot is the safe thing to do. I am not trying to give away my coaching philosophy, but we are not going to let someone shoot a three to tie us up if we can get a good foul. You made an excellent point earlier, that somewhere along the line someone that you have fouled will make the first free throw, miss the second on purpose, get the rebound, and then throw one in. But I don't think I have ever seen that happen. But I have seen on numerous occasions when you don't foul, someone throws in a three and you are in overtime. It may be the safe thing but that's not what I choose to do.
Q. Do you have the philosophy that you are not going to let the other team's best player beat you?
A. I do subscribe to that theory, and we have done it as well as anyone the last five or six years. It doesn't always work, but we are going to try to make the other team do something they are not comfortable doing. That's easier said than done. I don't know how we would have stopped a player like Brooks. We tried to stop James Anderson of Junction City in the state tournament with a junk defense, but had to scrap it two minutes into the game because we knew it wasn't going to work. But had we not tried to slow him down, he would have scored 54 instead of 34. So we do try to stop or at least slow down the other team's best player if we can.
Q. Who is the toughest coach you have faced or the one that gives you the most problems?
A. My best friend, Marty Smith. He is at Kirby, and when I coached at Caddo Hills, they were one of our biggest rivals. I introduced him to his wife. They play the same way we play - shoot a lot of threes. Our systems kind of evolved together. We had some awesome games. We didn't enjoy playing each other. When I was in southeast Arkansas, I always heard the coaching in Northeast Arkansas was better, but didn't want to believe it. But it is true, it is much better here. I am proud of the coaching that goes on in our corner of the state.
Q. What has been your biggest thrill as a head coach?
A. That is pretty easy. The three state championships. I think this year I was more thrilled than the other two.
Q. What has been your biggest disappointment in coaching?
A. Our loss to Crawfordsville in the Regionals at Marked Tree in 2004. We had lost the year before to Marmaduke and failed to make it to the state. We were 67-5 over those two years and didn't go to the state tournament. To know how hard we worked and that we were a very good basketball team - to come up short, that was hard.
Q. Do you teach your players to flop when they take shots - especially the three pointers?
A. No. That is a flaw in Brooks' game. I have told him when he's falling down and trying to bait he is leaving his teammates in a bad position on transition defense, which was one of our weaknesses all year long. That is something he has to work on, but to his credit, a lot of times it worked. I don't teach that, it's just Brooks trying to draw fouls.
Q. What does Bill Taylor like to do when he is not coaching?
A. I like Nascar. I love to watch the races. I have gone to two and look forward to going to another. It's more about what I don't do. I play a bad round of golf. I love to watch games on television, but mostly baseball. I watch a lot more baseball than I do basketball. Linda and I love to go to games, any that I don't have to coach or scout. That is a release for me. I like to watch ASU games. We followed Brandon (Ballard) this year. I have a short list of friends that are really dear to me. I enjoy being around people I like to visit.
Q. You have said baseball is your first love. What made you decide to give up coaching your high school baseball team?
A. I thought three years ago, we had nine starters coming back from a team that went to a state tournament. I knew everything was in place and that Coach Todd Rhoades was interested in making a change. I just knew he was a better baseball coach than me, and as much as I wanted to be the one to lead us to the state championship game, I knew he gave us the better chance of that. It was an easy decision to bring Coach Rhoades in. I have put so much into the basketball team lately, I just couldn't be there for every baseball game. I thought if we were going to achieve our basketball goals, I had to devote all my attention to that. I knew with a workaholic like Todd, that the baseball program was in good hands, and it took a load off me.
Q. If there is anything you could do over in your coaching career, what would it be?
A. I would have lightened up on Brooks when he was in the ninth and tenth grades. I was too hard on him. I demanded too much too soon. As far as my teams, I had us ill prepared at Marked Tree three years ago. I was so uptight and nervous that I let that carry over to the players. I wish I had that game back. That is one game I take full responsibility for us losing.
Q. If you couldn't coach, what would you do?
A. I would want to be in sales - in business. I would want the opportunity that the better I am at something, the more money I make. If I really got good at my job, the rewards would be great.
Q. What makes Bill Taylor tick?
A. (This has been the best anyone has been prepared, laughed Taylor.) I am driven by fear of failure. I remember losses more than I do wins. I am afraid people will think I can't do my job. I am coaching from the negative. I am scared of losing. That's what drives me. I want to succeed. My will to succeed is driven by my fear of failure.
Next week in Part 2 Taylor discusses coaching his son and his state championship teams.