MOUNT BLANCHARD — Despite the hire of a new coach, the Riverdale boys basketball team will have a familiar face roaming the sidelines of courts this winter.
Craig Taylor, of Forest, was approved at the board of education meeting Monday as coach. After a five-year absence from the court, he said he is ready to go.
“I’ve never quit, as basketball is something you never forget,” Taylor said. “As I watched games, I was still learning and picking up (ideas). Things are going to be different this time around and it’s going to be exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”
Taylor coached the Falcons from the 2003-04 season to 2006-07.
While also working as the district’s activities director, Taylor said he has no hard feelings toward now former coach Matt McCullough, who accepted the Kenton boys basketball coaching job and told Taylor on June 4 of his decision.
“I do wish him the best because he is going back to his hometown where he graduated from,” Taylor said. “I told him that I couldn’t fault him for that.”
Taylor said he took a few days to talk it over with his family and ultimately decided he wanted to coach again.
Shortly thereafter, he made his pitch to Superintendent Eric Hoffman and high school Principal Terry Huffman.
“I told them that I thought the program needed consistency and they didn’t need a new coach every other year and since I was going to be (at Riverdale), I would be willing to step back in and be the boys basketball coach,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t trying to toot my own horn, but I thought I got them to play hard the first time around and that would be our goal the next time around.”
While stepping away from the high school basketball spotlight, Taylor helped coach a year of high school football, little league softball and this past season, eighth grade boys basketball.
Despite not being directly involved on the high school basketball staff, he was at nearly every game and he said he never quit evaluating the game.
“Being an (athletic director), you go to so many games and can’t help but sit there and watch and say, ‘Boy, I would have done this a little bit differently and I wouldn’t have done this,’” Taylor said. “I could tell you what I would do differently in soccer or about volleyball. You sit there and you’re a fan of the game and you learn. It’s not like I haven’t been at a game. I’ve been learning and have active.”
While his main philosophy of the game is the same, he said his will tweak his coaching style.
“The big thing (offensively) in college right now and in some high schools is the dribble-drive,” Taylor said. “I’m not a big fan of putting the ball on the floor. I think we’re going to have a lot more ball movement, a lot more screens, a lot more player movement from that aspect. Basically, cut, cut, cut and move the ball to get open looks. I think that will benefit us as we don’t have a 6-5, 6-6 kid who’s going to play basketball. We’re going to be small and quick, so we’re going to utilize our strengths there.
“Defensively, we need to keep people in front and not foul,” he added. “That’s the big thing, you don’t want to put people at the free throw line or foul jump shooters. That’s what I’m going to stress.”
Since McCullough left for Kenton, Taylor and Jeff Young took control of the Falcons’ summer program, as designed by McCullough.
“I’ve been around the kids and know the kids,” Taylor said. “They’re very hard workers and I was pleased with their work ethic this summer. I think come November, we’re going to pick up right where we left off and start working a little bit harder.”
Young will serve as the junior varsity coach for the program, but Taylor said that is as far as the coaching staff has reached thus far.
Taylor said there are no objective goals for the upcoming season, but rather, he said he wants the players to give their absolute best in everything they do.
“The Riverdale community is going to be proud of the way we play,” he said. “We’re going to try and give 100 percent in everything we do and that’s in the classroom, in the community and on the basketball court. Our goal is not to go out and win 22 games a year. It’s to go out and give 100 percent in those 22 games and the wins and losses will take care of themselves. We want to be better people off the court than players on the court, but my expectations aren’t low. They’re very high.”
By PATRICK MASSARA