Taylor Recalls Early Days Of MCA Clinic
Aug. 7, 2009
Taylor recalls early days of MCA Clinic
By GEORGE GEISE Tribune Sports Editor Aug. 7, 2009
Blaine Taylor knew he would draw a big, enthusiastic audience when he agreed to talk basketball at this year's Montana Coaches Association clinic.
After all, Taylor attended many MCA clinics when he was learning his craft as a high school coach at Missoula Loyola, and later as an assistant and head mentor at the University of Montana, where he starred as a point guard in his playing days.
But his friends back in Virginia -- where he currently coaches at Old Dominion -- were skeptical about the kind of reception Taylor would receive out West.
"Well, quite honestly, I told some people out in Virginia that I was going out to Montana to speak at a clinic and they were imagining 10 guys sitting around a campfire," Taylor said with a hearty laugh.
"Truth of the matter is, this is a tremendous clinic. Ralph (Halverson) is turning 90 this year and he's made this a must-attend event. Over the years there have been 1,000 people or so at this for all sports. I came here when I was in my early coaching years 30 years ago. This is where I got started, watching the legendary guys and just the area guys who were really good."
Taylor has won 303 games as a Division I head coach -- 142 in seven seasons at UM, and 161 in eight years at ODU. He has taken four teams to the NCAA Tournament and at age 51, has a great chance to reach the elite 500-victory plateau.
He said he learned something from virtually every coach he saw at MCA clinics.
"There were so many good speakers. I would say Bobby Knight and Dean Smith made big impressions, because they were Division I coaches, more name people.
"It's been interesting to me, because in Montana, we've always exported our youth. But in education and coaching, the good people have stayed. The Robin Selvigs (Lady Griz coach) who could coach anywhere in the country, they've stayed. I'm talking about Gene Espeland and Toby Kangas and John Cheek and Zoonie McLean, guys I grew up admiring who were very accomplished and stayed in high school in their state and made a difference for young people."
One extremely successful coach with deep Montana ties didn't stay, however. His name is Blaine Taylor.
"The other day I woke up and wondered whether any other Montana kid had gone out of state and coached Division I. I couldn't think of another one. I guess I might be the only guy."
Taylor talked basketball for three solid hours Thursday, which wasn't difficult for one of the most gregarious coaches ever to diagram plays on a blackboard. It was his first trip to Great Falls in 11 years, but a lot of former buddies made him feel welcome.
"It's so rewarding to come back and see old friends. This is a place where you don't come back for that long and they greet you with a hug instead of a handshake," he said.