This is the second of a three part interview with Buffalo Island Central Head Basketball Coach Bill Taylor.
Question: How difficult was it to coach your own son?
Answer: It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and at the same time, the most rewarding. He is such a great player, unbelievable. People can say what they want, he is absolutely a phenomenal player. He is an emotional and high spirited player, a great competitor. It's hard to reign him in sometimes, but when we look back at all these championships, it will be the most rewarding time of my career.
Q. Did you and Brooks ever have any problems as a player and coach considering the fact you are father and son?
A. Not really. Brooks had more leeway but he also had more responsibility. He probably took advantage of some situations, not because he was my son, but because of his role of being our go to guy. It would be like if Matt Jones was a high school quarterback and I wanted him to hand off and he bootlegged and made a great play and scored a touchdown, because he knows he can. Does that make Matt Jones a bad guy? No, it means he is an incredible player. So yeah, there are times, when I think back, that Brooks didn't do exactly what I wanted, and thankfully so. When Brooks was in the ninth grade, and we were playing Marmaduke in the Regionals, I went away from Brooks the last four minutes of that game, and it beat us. Was he perfect as a player? No. But no one is. He had more freedom than other players. I might call a set play and he would break it off and go score, but how can I criticize that? Maybe two times it fails, but the other eight times it works. I want control of my team, but I have never been the type of coach that won't let my players play. I trust my players and I am not a control freak.
Q. As a father, how do you handle things when Brooks is criticized by others?
A. It's a complement when we go on the road and people would give him an instant reaction. That's a complement to him. So I looked at it as a positive, because he could handle it. All the attention he took made it easier on some of the other players. They were under the radar a little bit. If they had a poor game, it went unnoticed. As a dad, it never bothered me. As a coach, I thought it probably was a blessing for our team. It was just another piece of the puzzle. He thrives on it. That's what people never understood. Had they just left him alone and not rattled his cage so to speak, he wouldn't have had as much success. I really believe that. But he is motivated and driven when people do and say things to him. It actually helped us. He thrived on it and it took the pressure off the other players and let them just go play.
Q. Was it hard to keep the other players on your team happy?
A. No. People always say, "What is the best way to stop Brooks?" The only way was for our own players to do it, which they could have at any time, but it never happened. That's what I am proudest of. They all knew what we had to do and what the common goal was. I think what we do better than a lot of teams is that we know our roles. I am convinced we do this better than some of the other teams around. It's one of the secrets to our success. We know our roles and do what it takes to win. In the six years I coached Brooks, not one player ever came into my office or called me to discuss Brooks. It never happened!
Q. What were your feelings concerning the controversial article written about Brooks in another newspaper?
A. I think that was a case of a young guy, and someone was in his ear prior to his first time to ever watch Brooks play. I think he came with a hidden agenda, and to find some negative things. I thought it was unprofessional. The thing that bothered me more than the article was that later, when we played Greene County Tech and he is their beat writer, he didn't show up. The writer that the paper did send didn't interview me after that game. That's when I lost all respect for him. He can say what he wants and can have his opinion as much as I might disagree, but when he failed to show up to cover his team on the road, that told me all I needed to know about him.
Q. There was talk of some team dissension, especially during the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament this year. Is there any truth to that?
A. Not any more than any other team goes through. Yes, we had some arguments and disagreements, but we're family and we worked it out. We all wanted the same goal. We just maybe were going about it in a different way. Any time you go through a season, there is going to be rough spots. Even the year before, there were still some tough times. That's just part of sports and life in general. Thats what makes sports so great. You are going to have some disagreements and disappointments. But winners find a way to get back on the same page. We had a couple of bumps during the NEA, but nothing major, no problem.
Q. Tell me about the loss to Earle in the Regional Tournament finals.
A. That's a good question. After talking to Coach Real (Earle Coach Dion Real) I found out that they (Earle) dedicated one or two practices per week to prepare for our team. He told me that. I was impressed by him to have the foresight to do that. They had been preparing for us all year. We had just come off a game the night before against our biggest rival, Riverside, to qualify for the state tournament. And that took some of the pressure off of us. I did not have my team prepared for what we faced that night. Earle totally and completely destroyed us. I did a poor job of preparing my team, but we bounced right back. Earle is really a good team at home, get them outside that environment, they are not nearly as good, as was shown in the state tournament. They beat Jonesboro at Earle and that is all you really need to know. They are an elite team, especially at home.
Q. Why did it upset you so much about what was said by some of the Maynard players prior to this year's District Tournament?
A. It upset my players, so it upset me. The thing we didn't like about it is they looked forward to the opportunity to play us. We thought that was a disrespectful tone. They never made the comments why they wanted to play us. If they had said they wanted to play us again because we are the defending State Champions, because they had respect for us, that would have put an entirely different light on the matter. But they said, "We just can't wait to play those guys again." If they had worded their comments differently, that would have made a big difference, but the way they said it didn't sit with us well at all.
Q. What was the turning point of the season for your team?
A. The loss to Riverside in the NEA Tournament. We hadn't lost to a conference opponent in so long, and to lose in front of that many people, with that many people wanting to see us lose, just unified us. Not that I didn't think Riverside could beat us, because I did, but it was the game that motivated us.
Q. How do you feel now that the Brooks Taylor/Brandon Ballard era is over with?
A. I think our players and fans are going to look back 20-25 years from now and think of what a special time it was to be a Mustang and a Mustang fan. In my opinion, they are the two greatest players in our school's history. It's been a special time. We are really blessed to be a part of this.
Q. When did you first realize the players that produced the state championships for BIC were going to be something special?
A. When we first moved here, Brooks was in the fifth grade, and he came home one day early in the fall, I'll never forget it, and said, "Dad, there's two boys in recess that I can't beat." I said no, surely you can beat them. He said, "No, I can't beat them. They are too good." He was talking about Brandon Ballard and Josh Shepard. I told my wife then, "We are staying." That's a true story. I knew if there were two kids out there that Brooks couldn't beat as a fifth grader, that this was the place for us for the next six years. That's when I first knew these kids were special. And then when I first saw those sixth graders play, I knew they were a special group.
Q. How would you compare your state championship team at Delta with your BIC teams? Who do you think would win?
A. I think these teams at BIC are better. Delta was bigger and better on the boards while BIC is more versatile and can play a lot of different ways. The Delta team didn't shoot as well from the outside as BIC.
Q. I thought that you expected to win the state title at BIC. Did you expect to win at Delta or was it was surprise?
A. No, it was not a surprise. Delta won the state in 1987 and I took over in 1988 and we won again in 1989. So I kind of expected to win it at Delta.
Q. Who was your main player when you lead Delta to the state championship?
A. Anthony Allen. Anthony died in a car accident two years after he graduated. He was a post player and the key player on that team. That team had the ability to play at any speed they needed to. We pounded it inside and played a lot of man defense. It is totally a different style than what we do here at BIC.
Q. You have been blessed with a lot of good players over the years. Talk about that.
A. You can't win a Kentucky Derby with a mule. You have to have the horses. What I am proud of is that we have got it done. I don't want to take any credit for this.
Q. Who are the five best players you have coached?
A. Brooks Taylor and Brandon Ballard of BIC, Anthony Allen and Ferdinand Degreffenreed of Delta and Keith Campbell of Caddo Hills.
Next week in Part 3 Taylor talks about his family and his goals for the future.