IOWA CITY — More often than not when a new assistant coach arrives in a college basketball program, there is a period of adjustment.
It takes time to figure out how to get to the office, learn the names of new people, find a comfort zone with the community and develop a relationship with a new boss. The coach’s family goes through a similar period of uncertainty.
Not with Billy Taylor.
He has bypassed most of that in his return to the University of Iowa. It was only three years ago that Taylor served as the Hawkeyes’ director of basketball operations and now he’s back as a full-time assistant, replacing Andrew Francis.
“Usually, when you come in you don’t know any of the players, you’re starting from scratch with everything, everything is new to you,’’ Taylor said. “You’re just trying to figure out how to get to the nearest hotel or nearest restaurant. But to know ‘Hey, I can go to Grady’s to get dinner,’ it’s so much easier. It definitely works well for myself and my wife and the kids.’’
Taylor worked at Iowa so recently that two of his three children still have their best friends in Iowa City.
There are three players on the Iowa roster — Jordan Bohannon, Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener — that Taylor got to know a little bit before leaving to become the head coach at Belmont Abbey. He also has known sophomore Connor McCaffery since he was a year old and incoming freshman forward Patrick McCaffery is his godson.
Taylor probably knows Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery better than almost anyone outside the coach’s immediate family. They’ve been friends for 30 years.
Taylor, 46, first got to know McCaffery when Fran, then a Notre Dame assistant, started recruiting him as a 15-year-old player at West Aurora High School in the Chicago suburbs. McCaffery was an assistant coach with the Fighting Irish all four years that Taylor played there and they worked side by side as assistants in South Bend during the 1998-99 season.
When McCaffery became the head coach at UNC-Greensboro, he hired Taylor to be his assistant, then later helped him land the head coach job at Lehigh. After five years as the head coach there and six more years at Ball State, he rejoined McCaffery at Iowa in 2013.
Now McCaffery has hired him again for a third time.
“I haven’t successfully said ‘No’ to him yet,’’ Taylor said. “That just tells you what kind of recruiter he is. In this business, in coaching, you want to be around the right kind of people.’’
Taylor joins a staff loaded with head coaching experience. Kirk Speraw was the head coach at Central Florida for 17 years and at Pensacola Junior College for three years. Sherm Dillard was a head man for 10 seasons at Indiana State and James Madison. Director of basketball operations Al Seibert was the top guy for five years at the University of New Haven.
Taylor admitted that it was a little difficult to leave his head coaching job at Belmont Abbey, an NCAA Division II school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I love being a head coach and I have Fran to thank for that,’’ he said. “I was 28 years old as his assistant coach at UNC-Greensboro and he was the one that pushed me to go for my first head coaching job … Fran obviously values guys who have been head coaches, guys that understand the pressures and the expectations of the job and won’t flinch in that environment.’’
He said McCaffery does a good job of empowering his assistants and steering clear of micro-management.
He is confident he can bring some new things to the staff that will complement the strengths of the other coaches.
“Hopefully I’ll be someone who will just look to serve in a lot of ways,’’ he said. “My recruiting contacts will be different and will complement what Sherman and Kirk have, and will help us continue to attract the best student-athletes that we can.’’