Tuesday, March 19, 2013

William and Mary's Debbie Taylor was a class act

I've never wanted to be in a hiring -- and therefore a firing -- position. I'll never make the big bucks, but I can sleep at night.

Debbie Taylor was fired by William and Mary on Tuesday. Anyone who saw the Tribe play last week had to be troubled by the dismal 32-point outing William and Mary strung together in the CAA Tournament. What a a contrast they were to Drexel -- a team that had clearly peaked at precisely the right moment. William and Mary looked as if it was playing a mid-November game.

I can't defend William and Mary's record the last few years, especially the three-win season of two years ago or frankly, the eight-win season this year with five seniors on the roster. By Jan. 24, the Tribe had one win over a Division I school.

But I like Taylor for the person she is and for the passion she brought to women's basketball and her own program. She graduated her kids, and she seemed to understand that Division I athletics shouldn't be a mix of practice, games and road trips where players see nothing but the airport, hotel and arena. Tribe players talk about going to New York City in December, visiting the fresh market in Seattle and seeing the Alamo in Texas. Following Friday's game, she called this season one of her most enjoyable given the bond her team had developed.

I'm not naive. College athletics is about winning, and it's cutthroat. But Taylor, an alum of William and Mary who likely wanted to stay there the rest of her coaching days, is out of a job. Losing a job is painful, sobering and nothing to celebrate. Division I athletics is corporate and corporate decisions are made coldly. That's one reason why you don't see Wendy Larry sitting at the Constant Center enjoying the program that used to be her life.

Like Larry, Taylor wasn't in her job as a steppingstone. She was on the landing pad. She, no doubt, feels as if she's lost a part of something she cared about deeply. I remember Wendy saying this sentence years before she got the ax at ODU: "It's my school." There's only one alma mater for Debbie Taylor.

Then there are the other casualties.

Head coaches who are let go tend to land on their feet. Nobody thinks much about the assistants, but they are also people, with families, with incomes, with passion, who are let go, left to scramble.

So it's a sad day for LadySwish. William and Mary certainly needed a makeover; it doesn't make sense that a school with a traditionally strong women's athletic program has a basketball team that hasn't won a CAA quarterfinal game since 2001.

But we're sad for Taylor, too -- a woman we have a lot of respect for who personified all the qualities any mother would be happy to have her daughter to emulate.


  1. Debbie Taylor should be lauded for the student-athletes she had, all excellent role models. Speaking as a W&M who has gone to a few women's games, Taylor and her staff needed to go, nothing was getting accomplished. Debbie Taylor is a good person, but her coaching and recruiting especially the last 2 years has left much to be desired. Victoria Willems and Anna Kestler have essentially shown they have not lived up to their potential and may not do so. I praise Taylor as a person and a coach who graduated her players, which she should be lauded for. This program however is currently in shambles.

  2. I can speak for most past and current players that we are celebrating this news! The program is in utter shambles. She has no clue how to develop players, no clue how to build a winning atmosphere, and mostly has no clue how to instill a positive team like atmosphere. Many people fall into her "nice" personality. Don't be fooled, she is verbally abusive and has ruined so many girls mentally. It was absolutely miserable playing for her. The college of W&M deserves so much better. Today, well last night... A lot of us are celebrating this news! It's been long overdue....

  3. First time I have ever seen reference to Taylor as a class act. Graduating players is no problem at W&M. They do it themselves. Taylor's basketball knowledge is elementary. Motivational prowess in absentia. Had the athletic director had any semblance of a administrative spine, she would have been gone years ago, and the talented young women of the past two or three years might well have had a coach worthy of the label. The way back will be arduous, but if fortune smiles on the program, pride and integrity will return. It has been a long and hard struggle for the young women to cope with the institutionalized incompetence of the last several years. It is now time for the fair winds of fortune to smile on these gallant young ladies. Go Tribe!

  4. I could not agree with the final two comments more... Taylor is neither a good coach or a class act. She is incredibly abusive. Going back SEVERAL years, I know that many of us former players and our families complained and tried to have her fired and it fell on deaf ears. There were even staff on occasions who attempted to bring it to the attention of administration. There are countless women who have suffered the wrath of Debbie Taylor and have been forced to continue playing for her in order to fund their college educations. Her words, actions, and manipulation took a great and lasting mental and emotional toll on many of her former athletes. William & Mary, this was long overdue.

  5. I could not have written a response any better than the last three comments which truthfully convey what really happened to the W&M Women's basketball team over the last several years. As a parent I trusted Coach Taylor when she promised a college and athletic experience to rival none. These women graduate only because they and the school not Debbie Taylor were responsible. There was both mental and physical damage to these young women over the years due to the insensitivity and lack of strong coaching skills needed for this level of sport. My daughter did not pick up a basketball for at least 4 years post leaving W&M. She is now a successful professional and works to build up and support our young people. Coach Taylor needs to rethink her own strategy and perhaps at this point in her life keep a distance from managing our young women on the bball court.

  6. Scholars, athletes and parents of WM should have the fortitude to post their comments with full attribution. Anonymous criticism is abusive and lacks the decorum this great University deserves. WM did not fire an anonymous coach. Ms. Taylor should not have to abe subjected to anonymous, cowardly criticism. For better or worse she held her head high and shouldered the responsibility. A parting lesson that many of you still need to learn.