March 25, 2022
What we know about Texas A&M head coach Joni Taylor
She's a fan of hybrid players, it’s her second time replacing a basketball legend and she’s the latest example of the success Black women coaches are having in the SEC.
Quite a bit was learned about Joni Taylor during her introductory press conference as Texas A&M’s eighth basketball coach in program history. The former head coach of the Georgia Lady Bulldogs for the past seven years, Taylor was the 2021 SEC Coach of the Year.
Here are three things we learned about the new head of the Lady Aggies, Joni Taylor:
1. She’s a fan of “positionless” basketball.
Players who can do it all – defend, shoot the three, rebound, excel at the charity stripe and more – will likely find a home in College Station.
It’s this positionless or so-called “hybrid player” that Taylor values and says she will build her program around.
“We love hybrid players; players who can compete at a high level and who are going to do things the right way,” Taylor said during her introductory press conference Wednesday as the Aggies’ eighth head coach in program history.
“Whatever is in your wheelhouse, we’re going to let you do. We love to move players around, pieces around,” Taylor said before a packed arena in College Station. “We want hybrid players who can do multiple things. Obviously, scoring the basketball is important, but also defending at a high level is important because that’s going to be the cornerstone of who we are.
“We want to be able–everybody one through four that can rebound and go, let’s push the basketball, push the pace. Those are things that we look for.”
However, don’t think for a minute that’s all of Taylor’s concerns as she begins recruiting and building her roster. There’s more to a well-rounded player than just on the court success and she knows it.
“There are other things that also are as important as just the basketball piece and outside of that is what other intangibles do they bring, right? Their effort, their attitude, their camaraderie with their teammates,” she explained. “We spend a lot of time watching how they interact with their teammates because that’s all a part of it. And so, it’s the totality of all those things.”
2. She’s learned from the best.
For the second time in her head coaching career, Taylor will follow in the footsteps of a legend. She succeeds Gary Blair, the Aggies’ longtime, hall of fame coach who took the Aggies program to its only national title in 2011.
At Georgia she served first as an assistant, from 2011-12 under women’s basketball hall of famer Andy Landers, then associate head coach from 2012-15. After Landers’ retirement, Taylor took over the program as its second head coach in school history.
In her first season as head coach, she went 21-10 and won the 2016 Maggie Dixon National Rookie Coach of the Year honor.
“I consider it to be an opportunity. I learned so much from Coach Landers and I have learned so much from Gary Blair,” Taylor said. “I think what’s special about both of those men is that they understand it’s about women’s basketball and it’s about growing leaders and it’s about doing whatever is best for our game and our sport, and that’s what makes them special. That’s what I want to do so it aligns with the way we both think.
Her new position at A&M allows her the opportunity to “enhance what he created here,” Taylor says of Blair. I never walk into a situation thinking that “this is mine” or this is just about one person. This is about women’s basketball and making sure that Texas A&M women’s basketball is in the best position possible. And so I know that that’s the same goal that Coach Blair had and still has. And that is what I’ve continued to learn from watching great mentors and coaches like Coach Landers, like Coach Blair, who operate in the spirit of what’s best for the sport and our game.”
3. She’s the latest example of the SEC’s continued support of Black Women Coaches.
SEC continues to raise the bar and lead the nation in providing opportunities for skilled, capable Black women to head programs.
Although she was already in the SEC, Taylor is one of six Black women heading basketball programs at SEC schools: the Dean of them all, Dawn Staley out of South Carolina, Yolett McPhee-McCuin at Ole Miss, Johnnie Harris at Auburn, Kyra Elzy at Kentucky, Nikki McCray at Mississippi State.
The diversity of the conference, particularly in this area, continues to make history as well. Last season, Taylor and Staley became the first pair of African American female head coaches in history to coach against one another in the SEC Tournament title game.
With ensuring that Taylor didn’t leave the conference, the SEC has put their money where their mouth is by providing opportunity after opportunity for qualified Black women head coaches – and seeing the rewards follow.