The ties with Fran McCaffery go way back. Wayyy back.
He played at Notre Dame while Fran was an assistant in the early 90s. He later joined the ND staff in the 1998-99 season. At that time, McCaffery went to UNC-Greensboro and brought Taylor along. Following that stint, he went to the first place Fran was head coach: Lehigh. He got the Mountain Hawks to the NCAA tournament in 2004, posted winning records three out of his five year there, never finished in the bottom half of the conference standings, and accumulated an 81-69 record.
He moved to Ball State in 2007 and couldn’t quite replicate the success he found at Lehigh. Though his teams finished around .500 throughout his tenure, there were no postseason berths and he left in 2013 to join the Iowa staff as Director of Basketball Operations. After four seasons in Iowa City, he returned to the head coaching ranks at Belmont Abbey, where he went 26-34 in two season. His overall coaching record is 191-202 (48.6%).
While it’s not a particularly inspiring hire on its face, considering it is within Fran’s circle and doesn’t explicitly address the defensive needs of the last few Hawkeye squads, it is par for the “Hawkeye athletics hire” course. Taylor also brings the head coaching experience McCaffery telegraphed in a recent interview with the Des Moines Register:
The other thing is, professionally, I want that person — whoever it is — to have an opportunity to be a head coach. If you only specialize in one thing, you can’t ever be a head coach. A lot of guys over the years have been utilized in that way. Well, he’s my recruiter. He’s my defensive guy. He’s my administrative guy. Those guys move over one chair, and they’re in over their head.
Nobody ever did that to me. So I’m not going to do that to them.
Taylor, to his credit, knows the void Andrew Francis left in Iowa’s recruiting and appears focused on where he can help in that regard:
Some past seasons hint towards defensive success. His early Lehigh teams were solid defensively (top 3-4 in Patriot League play, per KenPom) as were a couple of his Ball State teams. He was also on staff for some of Iowa’s best defensive teams of Fran’s tenure (though much of that has to do with personnel). Whether that is particularly relevant for next year’s Hawkeye team is to be determined.
We wish Billy Taylor luck in the new role and are excited to see what he can bring to the recruiting trail and on the sidelines!