His calm demeanor exudes a quiet confidence that trickles down to his players, making for a relaxed, and poised group come crunch time, while his business-like approach to the game leaves no stone unturned when it comes to pre-game preparation or in-game adjustments. It is these attributes, along with a tireless work ethic and desire to succeed that has transformed the face of Lehigh basketball and paved the way for much future success.
Few coaches in college basketball have accomplished what Billy Taylor has in such a short amount of time, and in fact, no coach in Lehighs history has done more than Taylor has in his initial three years on the sidelines. Taylors 50 victories in his first three seasons are more than any other coach in Lehigh history and his remarkable record of 32-8 at Stabler Arena places him atop the all-time leader board in that category as well. Taylors teams have averaged over 16 victories per season, including 20 in 2003-04, which are the second most in the 104-year history of Lehigh basketball. Last season, the Aurora, Illinois native became just the seventh coach in school history to record 50 wins, as the Brown and White defeated Colgate 77-60 in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament on March 4, 2005.
In 2003-04 Taylor led the Mountain Hawks to unchartered territory, guiding Lehigh to its first-ever Patriot League regular season and tournament championships, as well as into the NCAA Tournament. For his efforts, Taylor earned Patriot League Coach of the Year honors, for the second time in as many seasons. Taylor was the first coach since Gonzagas Mark Few, to win conference Coach of the Year honors in each of his initial two seasons on the sidelines.
In his first season ever as a head coach, all Taylor did was lead Lehigh to the second largest turnaround in America, guiding the Mountain Hawks to 16 victories, 11 more than the previous season. Taylor was honored as the Patriot League Coach of the Year, becoming just the second coach in league history to be honored as such in his first season.
Taylor brought with him the experience of turning programs around as both a player and a coach. He has a tremendous presence and true understanding of what it takes to be successful as both an athlete and student. Combine that with a work ethic and ability to teach the game of basketball and relate to his players in a mature and non-confrontational manner and it is easy to understand why Lehigh basketball fans, alumni, and, most importantly current players are as enthusiastic about basketball now as they ever have been in the programs 104 year history.
Lehigh Dean of Athletics Joe Sterrett is very happy with the fact that Taylor is at the helm and he explains, "Lehigh has always established ambitious goals both academically and athletically. When we were searching for a coach, our goal was to find someone who could identify with and embrace both the ambitions and challenges. Billy has the vision, passion and energy and team-oriented approach to make a real difference at Lehigh."
Mike Brey, currently the head coach at Taylors alma mater, Notre Dame, has nothing but high praises for the Mountain Hawks leader. I think Billy is one of the brightest young coaches in the coaching fraternity. I would certainly feel comfortable with him coaching my own son. The sky is the limit for Billy Taylor.
Taylor is no stranger to assisting in the turnaround of Division I basketball programs. As the top assistant for three years under former Lehigh head coach Fran McCaffrey at North Carolina- Greensboro, Taylor immediately helped transform the existing team and subsequently helped recruit a top-40 class as rated by recruiting guru Bob Gibbons. The result was a program that recorded an improvement of eight wins, 17th-best in the nation.
The following year in 2000, UNCG finished with a 19-11 record and won the Southern Conference, Southern Conference Tournament and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. In his last year at UNCG, the team recorded the highest RPI ranking in school history (104) while finishing with a 20-10 record. The team tied for the Southern Conferences Northern Division crown and participated in the National Invitation Tournament.
Ra Tiah 04 saw the transformation of the program right before his own eyes and he liked what he saw. Coach Taylor has made this program do a complete about face, in terms of his preparation, his knowledge of the game and of life and also because he is so easy to talk to, Tiah said. Coach relates to the team real well, because he is not only an outstanding coach but also a great friend.
Not only are Taylors players impressed, but so is his former coach, who always knew Taylor possessed something special. "Billy Taylor is an outstanding person and basketball coach who is incredibly knowledgeable in every facet of the game," explains McCaffrey, now the head coach at Siena College in New York. "Billy has a tremendous passion for the game. For as long as I have known him whether it be as a player or coach he has had a level of maturity well beyond his years. Billy is extremely intelligent and is a teacher, who has always been able to establish excellent relationships with his players."
Author John Feinstein, who serves as color analyst for Patriot League Television, has seen Taylor in action several times and is impressed with what hes seen. "Billy Taylor is one of those coaches you want to know NOW so in a few years you can say, 'Oh yeah, I knew him when he was just getting started.' He's that good--and he's only going to get better."
While at Notre Dame from 1998-99, Taylor served as an assistant coach under John MacLeod where he coordinated opponent scouting reports, game preparations and preseason and postseason skill development sessions. He also had the chance to coach Troy Murphy, who won both the Big East Rookie and Player of the Year awards while in South Bend, and is currently a member of the Golden State Warriors.
"Billy is an outstanding individual," MacLeod said. "He was nothing short of a class act as a student at Notre Dame, and was extremely high-class as a player. He brings a wealth of basketball knowledge to Lehigh. Billy is a student of the game and an excellent communicator. He knows how to win and is a good fit for Lehigh just as Lehigh is a good fit for him."
Taylor earned his bachelors in business administration and computer applications from Notre Dame in 1995. He also earned his CPA in 1998.
On the basketball court Taylor, who was recruited by Digger Phelps, was captain as a senior. Taylor earned varsity letters all four years and started 79 of 112 games for the Irish, scoring 577 points and pulling down 300 rebounds in his career. He started 59 of 60 games in his first two seasons before moving to the sixth man role eventually playing behind Pat Garrity, now with the Orlando Magic. Taylor scored a career high 23 points against Loyola in his freshman season and pulled down a career high eight rebounds as a sophomore vs. Duquesne.
Following graduation Taylor worked at Arthur Anderson until 1998 as a senior accountant and then senior consultant.
Taylor graduated from West Aurora (Illinois) High School. He, his wife Avlon, three-year old daughter Gavielle and son Savion reside in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania.