As the men’s basketball team enters the 2022-23 season, a new era of Phoenix basketball is beginning. Nicknamed the “Billy Taylor Era” by Elon Athletics after new head coach Billy Taylor, the Phoenix is looking to have a successful season this year.
Taylor is the 19th person to be named head coach in Elon University men’s basketball history. He replaced former head coach Mike Schrage, who left after three seasons at Elon for Duke University, where he serves as special assistant to the head coach.
Taylor has 14 years of head coaching experience — with 11 at the Division I level — played basketball for Notre Dame when he was in college and has advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s basketball tournament at the Division I level seven times.
Despite a rough start to the season, Taylor looks forward to building the program, which he said he knows takes time.
“Thankfully, I’ve been a head coach before,” Taylor said. “I’ve been through the development of programs, it takes time. While I wish there was a magic wand, it just takes time to build the program. It’s through recruitment and coaching and development. So it’s just all part of the journey, and it’s a tough part right now.”
According to Taylor, developing a team starts with setting out the standards and ideas for what they want to be in order to be successful.
“I think it’s important for us to lay the foundation of what we want our program to be,” Taylor said. “So we spent a lot of time through the summer through our fall workouts talking about our core values so we would really hone in and try to emphasize what are our values, what are the things that you know, every day is going to be important and valuable to us becoming a championship level program.”
According to multiple team members, Taylor’s coaching style establishes a good relationship with the team that makes them feel trusted on and off the court.
Sophomore forward Sam Sherry said Taylor’s coaching is about rebuilding the program but also building a relationship with his athletes.
“I thought he had a plan for us and he really trusts us and everything that we do, in our abilities on the court, and he loves us as people off the court,” Sherry said. “And I think that’s huge to have that chemistry with a player and with a coach. So I think that’s great.”
Junior guard JaDun Michael said that unlike other coaches, Taylor wants his players to be the best version of themselves, which helps his game.
“When you meet Taylor, I think the first thing you realize is just how genuine of a person he is,” Michael said. “It’s very rare, especially a player-to-coach relationship, that you meet someone who really wants the best for you. A lot of times coaches, they say they want the best for you, but as soon as things aren’t working out on the court, you tend to see that fade away, … but Taylor, no matter what’s going on the court, he’s there for you.”
Michael said Taylor’s vision for the team to play better and faster by building a strong defense and scoring more points than they have in the past. Taylor said he’s not trying to mend the program but continue to lay the foundation for how players want their team to win.
“We’re trying to establish a culture around the program. And it’s not really fixing them, per se. No one needs to be fixed. We just try to instill our values and lay a foundation that we believe will be successful for our guys,” Taylor said. “We have our values that we talk about, we have behaviors and beliefs that we stress to our guys and we have good guys and they’re doing their best. They’re good people off the court, on the court. We’re making progress in that area.”
Taylor said that there’s a few words that the team knows they should be trying to focus on.
“We have some words that we talked about. Being selfless, being accountable, loving each other and being tough,” Taylor said. “So those are our four values that we talked about quite a bit and we defined that out for our guys so they know exactly what that means.”
Taylor said both the Elon administration and fans are helping with building a championship-worthy team, so having them continue to show up and grow in numbers can help lead to the team’s successes.
“Thankfully, we have support administratively,” Taylor said. “Support from the fans that are showing up and I know more will show up as we continue to put a good product on the floor. So we’re just working to build towards it.”
Taylor will be showcasing these values in Elon’s next game at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 against High Point.