Today, January 24th, is the annversary of the death of a great coach and mentor to me, William Taylor. I've published a full account of my high school relationship to this great coach and his profound influence in my life: https://www.paulluverajournalonline.com/weblog/2013/01/william-taylor.html
Many of us can point to one person or perhaps several people who played significant roles in our life. People who made the difference at a tipping point in our lives. Someone whose words or actions changed our attitude and the direction of our life for the better. For me, after my parents, it is a short list of those who had a very significant influence on my life. But, one person played a truly pivotal role at a critical time in my life:, my high school basketball coach Bill Taylor. For whatever reason, he took an interest in me and encouraged me to believe I could be a basketball player. He then became my example of what a decent person and leader should act like when I was in the 8th grade.
William H. Taylor was born March 11, 1922. He died January 24, 2002 in Anacortes, Washington at 79 years of age. He was a great natural athlete who played baseball and basketball for the University of Washington He graduated from the University of Washington in 1949. He flew fighters in the Navy and eventually became my high school basketball and baseball coach in Anacortes. (That's me, number 88, in the photograph) The town had always been a basketball town very much like the one portrayed in the movie Hoosiers about a high school team in Indiana and the town's devotion to basketball.
Richard "Boots" Wooten had coached winning teams at Walla Walla, Sequim, Mt Rainier and Anacortes. He started the tradition of basketball madness in Anacortes. With Boots as the coach basketball became a town obsession by producing winning teams that went to State Tournaments. Our small gym filled to overflowing with spectators standing along the out of bounds line. The town emptied when the team played away and there was a parade of cars following the team bus to the out of town games. The town lived basketball.
Bill Taylor became the new coach after Boots left. He had big shoes to fill and carried on the tradition of winning teams. His high school teams won 212 games and lost only 56 during his coaching from 1946 to 1960. Taylor’s teams went to the state tournaments. Two years in a row his teams made appearances at the Washington State Basketball tournament and both were against Lincoln of Seattle. The second year both teams were undefeated and the game was watched by the largest crowd in the history of Heck Edmundson Pavilion with 3,000 people shut out wanting to get inside. Anacortes lost both years to Lincoln, but the Anacortes fans turned out in force to welcome them home anyway. His record of winning was so good he was named to the High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
However, what made Bill Taylor outstanding was not just his coaching ability, but his character and the role model he became for students, especially those of us who played for him. He was a man of principle. When he disciplined a player whose relative was a political force on the school board, pressure was applied to change his decision, but he didn’t budge. Taylor was a model of a professional. He remained calm on the bench and prohibited any kind of un-sportsman like conduct by his players. He was known for his civility, sportsmanship, discipline and character. He always acted as professional on the bench during games and demanded his players do the same.
My life story involves an encounter with man of high principle who encouraged me in the right direction at a significant time in my life resulting in my life turning in the right direction at a critical time. The noon Kiwanis Club of Anacortes administers a scholarship program in Bill Taylor's honor every year. His contributions live on.
This is in honor of William H. Taylor, great coach, mentor to me and many other young men and a man of great character.