Taylor returns to familiar job with Iowa basketball

Billy Taylor knows Iowa basketball’s McCaffery family well. Now, he’s back in his comfort zone.

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Taylor returns to familiar job with Iowa basketball

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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When Billy Taylor accepted Fran McCaffery’s job offer to become an assistant coach at Iowa, he knew it would allow him to see his godson more often.

That’s because incoming freshman and son of head coach Fran McCaffery, Patrick, is that godson.

Taylor and the McCaffery family have been close since McCaffery coached Taylor at Notre Dame from 1992-95. Now, Taylor is connected with the family in his professional life for the third time.

“Patrick is my godson, so that was kind of another draw for me,” Taylor said. “I’ve got Patrick coming to the Hawkeyes, and he’ll be on the team, I’ve got Connor [McCaffery], who I’ve known since he was a year old. Just that relationship, and being able to come back here, and be a part of something special with my godson, with Connor, with Fran and [wife] Margaret was really just too much to turn down.”

The first time Taylor worked with McCaffery came at Notre Dame, where the two served as assistants under head coach John MacLeod for the 1998-99 season. Taylor jumped into the thick of college coaching quickly, preparing opponent scouting reports, taking care of game preparations, and creating preseason and postseason player skill-development programs.

McCaffery then took head-coach gig at North Carolina-Greensboro, and he hired Taylor to be his top assistant in 1999. The duo had some success in Greensboro, winning the Southern Conference Championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament in the 2000-01 campaign.

After his stint with the Spartans, Taylor received his first head coaching job at Lehigh. He succeeded.

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In his first of five seasons, Taylor earned Patriot League Coach of the Year honors after improving on the Mountain Hawks’ previous win total by 11.

In the 2003-04 season, Taylor helped Lehigh to a Patriot League regular season and tournament title, once again earning the conference’s Coach of the Year award.

He then coached Ball State for six seasons beginning in 2007. The Cardinals finished either first or second in the MAC three times during Taylor’s tenure, showing a trait of consistency he had developed.

After that coaching stop, Taylor found reunited with McCaffery once again in 2014 as Iowa’s Director of Basketball Operations. He stayed in the role for three seasons, giving him a sense of familiarity with Carver-Hawkeye and Iowa City.

Most recently Taylor served at the helm at Division-2 Belmont Abbey, where he helped three players to all-conference honors in the past three seasons.

Now, Taylor, 46, works on a staff with McCaffery, Kirk Speraw, Sherman Dillard, and Al Seibert — a group with more than 140 years of combined head-coach experience.

Through each stop, though, Taylor’s connection with McCaffery was not far away.

“I love being a head coach,” Taylor said. “And again, I have Fran to thank for that. I was 28 years old as his assistant at UNC-Greensboro, and he was the one that pushed me to go for my first head-coach job, and he helped me get the Lehigh job.”

Because he already has experience at Iowa, Taylor knows the players who came into the program together when he was still around — Jordan Bohannon, Cordell Pemsl, and Ryan Kriener.

That familiarity — with the team, McCaffery family, and city — will help in his next chapter. “Usually when you take over, you don’t know any of the players, you’re starting from scratch — everything is new to you,” Taylor said. “You’re just trying to figure out which way to get to the nearest hotel and nearest restaurant. But to know like, ‘Hey, I can go to Graze and get dinner.’ It’s so much easier.”

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