After watching ODU-Georgia State, I turned on the end of the Kentucky-Tennessee game to see that Jodie Meeks scored 54 points against the Vols. I am sure it was an absolutely terrific performance by Meeks, and I will have to see if I can watch it on ESPN 360. However, my first thought was to a great comment made by Jay Bilas in the second Gonzaga vs. Tennessee matchup this season. Bilas noted that Tennessee could still win the SEC but stated "They have to learn how to guard someone". Meeks' performance no doubt was in part to shoddy defense and reinforces my belief that Bilas is the best TV analyst in college basketball.
My friend Mal is looking for the next coach of St John's. He believes Norm Roberts is on his way out, which could be the case after the Jonnies have not made the NCAA tournament since he got there several seasons ago and Roberts is definitely on the hot seat. Well after watching ODU pull away from Georgia State, I texted Mal last night. I told him, if the Jonnies want a coach, they should look no further than the very underrated coach of the Momarchs, Blaine Taylor. Think about it. Taylor is now in his eighth year as coach for the Monarchs. In the past four years, Taylor's team has won 94 games. NINETY FOUR. That's 23.5 wins per season. In those four seasons, Taylor's team has gone to two NCAA tournaments, a semifinal NIT berth, and a CBI berth. Three of those four seasons saw twenty plus win seasons, the best of which was the 2004-05 team that won the CAA tournament and went 28-6. He had 136 wins going into this season with ODU and now with 10 more this season, he has 146 wins. This gives him at least 140 wins for two different schools.
Taylor has a significant background as a coach having been a head coach at Montana for eight seasons, after which he was an assistant at Stanford under Mike Montgomery. His record at Montana - 142-65. Two NCAA tournaments, one NIT. In 1992, Montana went 27-4. Five of his Grizzlies' teams won twenty games.
Taylor can recruit. Among several of his players at ODU were Alex Loughton, a former CAA player of the year, who was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Loughton was found in Australia. Isaiah Hunter was a terrific scoring guard for the Monarchs during his time there. Current Monarch Gerald Lee is a terrific post player with a deft scoring touch. Taylor found Lee in Finland.
Taylor is an absolute terrific game manager, with the ability to make adjustments and his ability to ably rotate players into the game. His teams' style is very physical and grinds opponents down late in the game while his players keep fresh. This is due in large part to Taylor giving nine, ten, even eleven players significant minutes during games.
A great example of Taylor as a game manager was last night's win over Georgia State, televised on ESPNU. In the first half, the game was very close as the Panthers' Joe Dukes was lighting up the scoreboard with 16 first half points, often on dribble drive penetration. In the second half, the Monarchs held him to five points. So thus what was a two point game at halftime turned out to a 17 point win, 73-56. And Taylor's trademark with ODU, player depth again showed last night. Nine players averaged at least 11 minutes last night. Eight of those nine contributed at least seven points.
Think about it. In fourteen years of coaching, eight 20 win or more seasons with two different teams. Has the pedigree of being an assistant coach at a big time program (Stanford made the Elite Eight in 2001, Taylor's last season as an assistant there). He has the ability to recruit around the world and find gems. He is an excellent game manager. And if you have eight 20 win seasons in fourteen years, you are also a good game preparer. St John's needs all these things. An experienced coach who is a good recruiter but more importantly someone who is good with Xs and Os and game management. Blaine Taylor is that man.