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.