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Billy Taylor era begins at Lehigh

Former University of Notre Dame and University of North Carolina Greensboro assistant coach Billy Taylor has been named as head men’s basketball coach at Lehigh University. Taylor was introduced as the 26th men’s basketball coach at Lehigh at an on-campus press conference at noon today. His position title will officially be the "Murray H. Goodman Head Men’s Basketball Coach" reflecting an endowment commitment by alumnus, trustee and former men’s basketball player Murray H. Goodman ’48.

"I am very excited about the opportunity to coach at Lehigh," Taylor said. "Lehigh is a very special place with true student-athletes and a long-standing athletic tradition that fits my background. When this position opened I looked at Lehigh as a program that has an excellent group of senior leaders and a hungry group of underclassmen, all of whom are interested in working together to make this program successful. We began the journey as a team last night and will work hard every day to attain our ultimate goals of reaching the NCAA Tournament and establishing a basketball program that Lehigh students, alumni and fans will all be proud of."

"All championship-caliber programs start with championship-caliber leadership and we believe we’ve found that in Billy Taylor," said director of athletics Joe Sterrett. "Billy is truly a student of the game who will mentor our players and provide them with the tools to learn and grow as basketball players and as people. He is intelligent, hard working and focused on the task at hand: to build a championship program at Lehigh.

"Lehigh has always established ambitious goals both academically and athletically. Throughout our search, our goal was to find someone who could identify with and embrace both the ambitions and challenges. Billy has the vision, passion and energy and team-oriented approach to make a real difference at Lehigh."

Taylor is no stranger to assisting in the turnaround of Division I basketball programs. As the top assistant under former Lehigh head coach Fran McCaffrey at North Carolina Greensboro for three seasons, Taylor immediately helped transform the existing team and subsequently helped recruit a top-40 class as rated by recruiting guru Bob Gibbons. The result was a program that recorded an improvement of eight wins, 17th-best improvement in the nation. The following year UNCG finished with a 19-11 record and won the Southern Conference, Southern Conference Tournament and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. This past season UNCG recorded the highest RPI ranking in school history (104) while finishing with a 20-10 record. The team won the Southern Conference’s Northern Division and participated in the National Invitation Tournament.

"Billy Taylor is an outstanding person and basketball coach who is incredibly knowledgeable in every facet of the game," North Carolina Greensboro head coach Fran McCaffrey said. "Billy has a tremendous passion for the game. For as long as I have known him whether it be as a player or coach he has had a level of maturity well beyond his years. Billy is extremely intelligent and is a teacher, who has always been able to establish excellent relationships with his players."

While at Notre Dame, Taylor served as an assistant coach under John MacLeod where he coordinated opponent scouting reports, coordinated game preparations and coordinated preseason and postseason skill development sessions.

"Billy is an outstanding individual," MacLeod said. "He was nothing short of a class act as a student at Notre Dame, and was extremely high-class as a player. He brings a wealth of basketball knowledge to Lehigh. Billy is a student of the game and an excellent communicator. He knows how to win and will be a good fit for Lehigh just as Lehigh is a good fit for him."

Taylor earned his bachelor’s in business administration and computer applications from Notre Dame in 1995. He also earned his CPA in 1998. On the basketball court Taylor, who was recruited by Digger Phelps, was voted captain as both a sophomore and senior. Taylor earned varsity letters all four years and started 79 of 112 games for the Irish, scoring 577 points and pulling down 300 rebounds in his career. He started 59 of 60 games in his first two seasons before moving to the sixth man role eventually playing behind Pat Garrity, now with the Orlando Magic. Taylor scored a career high 23 points against Loyola in his freshman season and pulled down a career high eight rebounds as a sophomore vs. Duquesne.

Following graduation Taylor worked at Arthur Anderson until 1998 as a senior accountant and then senior consultant.

"I don’t think you could have picked a better person," said former Lehigh and current Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw. "I think he’ll be a great recruiter and an excellent coach and I know the players will love him. He is without question a great fit for Lehigh."

Taylor begins his head coaching career at Lehigh, which just this past year was recognized as having the top Division I graduation rate in the country and recognized by US News & World Report as one of the top 20 institutions in the country for academics and athletics. This year Lehigh has won league championships in football, men’s swimming and diving, and wrestling.

"We have caught a rising star in coach Billy Taylor," said Pete Lembo, recipient of the 2001 Eddie Robinson Award given to the top coach in I-AA football. "He makes an extremely strong first impression and possesses the work ethic and organizational skills to handle the challenges of building a successful program at Lehigh. I look forward to working with Billy as he takes our basketball program to new heights."

Taylor graduated from West Aurora (Illinois) High School. He and his wife Avlon are expecting their first child in June.

Posted on Monday, April 22, 2002

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