July 1, 2016
CHARLOTTESVILLE — He spent the past four years as the principal of William Wetsel Middle School in Madison County. The experience, Tim Taylor believes, has made him a better coach.
“Without a doubt,” Taylor said. “I learned a lot. You’re talking about managing staff, managing people, managing lives. I think it’s the same concept. You’re building a team. It was really hard to leave there, just because of the family we’d built. You hire really good people, and really good things happen.”
As difficult as it was for him to leave Wetsel Middle, Taylor decided he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to return to the University of Virginia. And so he’s back in John Paul Jones Arena — in the same office he vacated in 2011, with the same University email address — for his third stint as an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team. But he never really cut ties with UVA athletics.
“I’m a Virginia fan, so I follow every sport,” Taylor said. “You can learn a lot just by watching the Brian O’Connors and Tony Bennetts, and I stayed in contact with [men’s basketball staffers] Ron Sanchez and Ronnie Wideman the whole time.”
Taylor worked for Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan from 2000-05 and 2009-11, the second time as Ryan’s associate head coach. His boss now is Joanne Boyle, who succeeded Ryan after the 2010-11 season.
“If you talk to anybody,” Boyle said, “there’s not a bad word to be said about Tim.”
When Kim McNeill and her husband, Cory, left for Hartford in late May, Boyle suddenly had two slots to fill on her staff. Her first hire was Taylor, a Charlottesville native whose wife, the former Tonya Daughtry, is a UVA alumna. Taylor has two degrees from James Madison University.
“Our first conversation was on the phone for two hours,” Boyle recalled, “and I looked at my watch like, `Oh, my gosh.’ And we could have kept going. That to me felt so good, just to be able to have a good conversation and feel like there was a good give and take.
“It never, ever felt like an interview. Ever. And we talked on three, four, five occasions. We both said, `Hey, we’re at this point of our lives, let’s just put it all out on the table. What are you looking for, what’s the best fit for you, what does Virginia need?’ Tim was doing the same, and through our conversations, it was like everything matched up, our philosophies and core values.”
Taylor, 49, had opportunities to join other college staffs this offseason, but chose to return to Charlottesville.
“I think Virginia appeals to my heart,” Taylor said. “I grew up a Virginia fan. I knew the area. Didn’t have to move my family very far. Didn’t have to uproot a lot of situations.”
He’d stayed active in coaching since leaving UVA in 2011, working with the United Christian Academy boys team, the Madison County High boys team, and the Team Loaded 434 AAU boys program.
“He’s a basketball junkie,” Boyle said of Taylor, who’s also been a successful high school head coach, first with the girls team at Woodridge and later with the boys teams at Orange County and Madison County.
When she was an assistant coach at Duke, Boyle would occasionally see Taylor on the road when he was out recruiting for Virginia. So they had some familiarity with each other when they started talking this spring.
“Joanne and I had a lot of conversations,” Taylor said. “My main thing was: What are you looking for? Am I a fit for you and are you a fit for me? We had an opportunity to sit down and go through some things, and it seemed like what she needed matched some of the strengths I had.”
After the McNeills left for Hartford, Boyle said, she and her remaining assistant coach, La’Keshia Frett Meredith, met to discuss their options.
“We were like, `What does our staff need to look like?’ ” Boyle recalled. “And one of the things I really wanted, and Keshia did too, was an older person that’s been in the game, first and foremost, and a good person with good character, someone who’s high energy, trustworthy, loyal and all the things that go along with that.
“And then just somebody that’s had a lot of experience, a lot of success. A good Xs and Os person, with good technical knowledge, and somebody that can relate to kids.”
Taylor met all those requirements.
“He’s been through a lot in his time, so he’s just an even-keel type of person,” said Boyle, who filled out her staff by hiring Western Kentucky assistant Katherine Graham this month. “Not too high, not too low. I think I work really well under those circumstances. This game can take you really high and it can take you really low, so consistency is important.
“Even though he’s been out of [the recruiting circuit] a little bit, he’s still really connected through his contacts and the things he’s done outside college coaching. So he hasn’t really lost that. And he knows [the state of] Virginia like the back of his hand.”
Taylor said: “I’ve made a lot of good friends in the time I’ve been there, and I’ve coached in Virginia a long time. I’ve got a lot of contacts. We stay in touch, and it was never about trying to get players. It was about developing relationships and friends.”
The Wahoos, who finished 18-16 in 2015-16, are 90-72 under Boyle, whose record in ACC games in 36-46. Virginia has not advanced to the NCAA tournament since 2010,. Still, Taylor remains high on the program’s potential. For much of Ryan’s tenure, the ‘Hoos were fixtures in the NCAA tourney.
“I think this is one of the best combinations in the country as far as academics and athletics,” Taylor said.
“I think it’s an easy sell. I would want my children to come here. My wife graduated from here, so I think it’s a matter of getting out there and getting key people to believe in your vision and help them see where they fit in the picture.”