Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vince Taylor: A Closer Look

If there is one assistant coach on Tubby Smith's staff to be excited about it's Vince Taylor.

He has recruited for a big-time basketball program (Louisville), has played for Duke and has gotten at least a little bit of NBA experience both as a player and coach. He's ambitious and eventually wants to run a program. If he can help Tubby turn the Gophers around, Taylor may in fact be called upon to run a big-time program of his own.

Taylor worked under both Denny Crum and Rick Pitino at Lousiville, before spending a year with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's still well liked in Louisville, and the Courier-Journal, while bashing Tubby's chances of success in Minnesota, lauds Taylor.

Taylor has a pedigree few assistant coaches can match. He played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, worked for Pitino at Louisville and now joins Smith at Minnesota. He is 46 and wants to lead his own program one day. This is his chance to upgrade his profile by recruiting well and helping Minnesota shock the Big Ten.

Smith's final difficult seasons at UK proved that he needs assistants who can deliver in the recruiting world. Recruiting is not Smith's passion.

While some Gopher fans may point to certain successes Tubby has had in the recruiting wars over the years, for a fan who is willing to listen to some of the complaints Kentucky diehards made about Tubby, the hiring of a recruiting ace like Taylor eases some worries. Taylor earned his reputation before Pitino's stint in Louisville. He was recruiting for Crum in the late '90s and the Cardinals' typical recruiting base was drying up. In 2000, ESPN's Pat Forde noted Taylor's work overseas.

Louisville was producing fewer blue-chip recruits, and the only two future pros of recent vintage -- Derek Anderson and Scott Padgett -- starred at arch-rival Kentucky. Ouch.

Slow reaction to the shifting recruiting map has left scars. The Cardinals haven't won 20 games in a season, won an NCAA Tournament game or beaten Conference USA kingpin Cincinnati since Wheat was a senior in 1997.

Now Louisville's recruiting response to hard times has been a seismic shift from provincial to international. A program that used to make hay inside the city limits has gone through customs in attempting a return to glory.


The foreign legion has landed in Louisville in large part through the efforts of the Cards' international affairs expert, assistant coach Vince Taylor, who played ball for 13 years overseas. He's helped make Crum a late, but enthusiastic, convert to the worldwide recruiting.

In a report from 1999, Hoop Scoop Online also lauds Taylor's "international contacts." Before earning his reputation in Louisville, Taylor had a journeyman's basketball career. He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1982 after earning All-ACC honors at Duke. He struggled in the NBA before moving to Europe, where he played 13 seasons according to published reports. During his last two seasons in Europe he served as a player-coach.

Taylor took that experience and came back to the States. He coached briefly at Pittsburgh and the University of Wyoming before getting his opportunity at Louisville. Now, after a year with the Timberwolves he's back in the college ranks. He has told the Star Tribune that recruiting this year and next will be critical.
"I coached at Louisville and have been a part of some great recruiting classes," Taylor said. "All the coaches are going to be out there [recruiting]. This year and next year is crucial to getting the program turned around."
Taylor couldn't be any more on point. The Gophers will lose Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman and Lawrence McKenzie after this season. Tubby will have plenty of scholarships available to him to rebuild, and we've already heard plenty of names that could make us quickly forget the Dan Monson era.

Fellow assistant coach Ron Jirsa has had his chance to run his own program and it hasn't worked out. While he'll be trying to prove his worth in Minnesota, Taylor will be trying to prove to the world he can run his own program. Taylor can prove that by bringing talent to Minnesota--local, regional or international.

This is the third installment of PJS' look at new assistant coaches in Minnesota. We previously discussed Jirsa and Mike Dunbar. In the following weeks, we'll look at Everett Withers and Saul Smith.