Iowa Basketball Hires Billy Taylor As Assistant

By Patrick Vint on May 22, 2019 at 12:32 pm
Wrong Coach Taylor

After a nationwide search to fill his first staff vacancy in his nine-year tenure at Iowa, basketball coach Fran McCaffery turned to a friendly face: Former Hawkeye Director of Basketball Operations Billy Taylor.  He will replace Andrew Francis, who left to become an assistant at California.

Taylor and McCaffery have a long history together.  Taylor played at Notre Dame from 1991 through 1995, when McCaffery was an assistant on the staffs of Digger Phelps and John MacLeod.  In 1998, Taylor joined MacLeod's staff, and coached with McCaffery for his final season in South Bend.  When McCaffery left to become head coach at UNC-Greensboro the following season, Taylor came along as an assistant, and remained on that staff for three years.

Taylor left for a job that McCaffery knew well: The head coach position at Lehigh, which McCaffery had held from 1985 through 1988.  Taylor coached the Mountain Hawks for five seasons, earning an NCAA berth in his second campaign, before moving to Ball State. 

After six seasons in Muncie, Taylor came to Iowa City as McCaffery's Director of Basketball Ops, and held that position for three seasons.  Most recently, he spent two years as head coach at Belmont Abbey, a Division II program in Belmont, North Carolina; if you think Belmont Abbey sounds familiar, it's likely because Taylor's team played Iowa in an exhibition game before the 2017 season.

Taylor provides a lot of what one would expect from an assistant: He's young, he's got head coaching experience at the Division I level, and he is obviously familiar with both the program and the head coach.  His recruiting profile isn't entirely clear: His Lehigh teams were recruited from across the country, while his Ball State recruits were generally pulled from Indiana and Illinois (though he did recruit the excellently-named Australian-Sudanese import Majok Majok to Muncie).  Perhaps this is a sign that Iowa is going to plow familiar ground, or that McCaffery is not concerned with his staff's ability to play anywhere regardless of history.  Perhaps it didn't much matter, so long as McCaffery got someone with such familiarity to him and his system.

What Taylor isn't is a Luke Yaklich-style defensive coordinator, at least not if his teams' defensive efficiency ratings are any guide.  Nor is he the likely change agent brought in to breathe new life into a coaching tenure that has grown a bit stale.  Taylor is exactly the hire one would expect from a coach comfortable with his job and performance, and trying to keep both as undisturbed as possible.

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