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Studious Taylor appraised of BBL class


After five long months without any competitive basketball games to sustain us, the BBL Championship is finally back and as the sole entirely new coach to the BBL, Mike Taylor is certainly looking forward to getting his teeth into British hoops.

The 30-year-old American play-caller, who hails from Pennsylvania, is the new man in charge of the newly-named DG Essex Leopards Kool Kats. He joins Leopards fresh from his experiences in the US and Germany, but he’s got a pretty good idea of what to expect in the BBL too.

“I have studied the BBL quiet extensively. I’ve had my eye on the league and always wanted to coach here. I have a lot of respect for the league and for the coaches and the players.

“I spent some time over Christmas with Robbie Peers, so I learnt about the BBL then. Because of the league and the lifestyle over here – particularly with the language and way of life – it made the BBL a very desirable place to play.

“I think the BBL is a real talent-based league – there are a lot of talented players and I think it’s a very up-tempo, perimeter-oriented style of play. In Europe, it’s more of a half-court game.”

As well as knowing what to expect, Coach Taylor also believes that his coaching style will be well suited to the BBL too. He coached Chemnitz in Germany last season and took what had been a 12-14 team and turned them into a championship-winning team. He’s proud of the fact that they were the best defensive team in that league last season, but he says there’s more than defence to his coaching mentality.

“I think people will find me very positive and very enthusiastic and I will show tremendous energy with my team. We will be well prepared and I think I’m a good teacher of the game, because player development is important to me. 

“I like perimeter ball skills, I like my teams to create off the dribble and I also like a good inside/outside game. I think people will be surprised at the Leopards this season and I think they will be particularly impressed with David Fisher. We are running a 3-guard offence this season and I think people will be impressive with how we do and with our athleticism.

“I hope that I can bring the best of American and the best of European basketball together. I’m very excited about it.”

Taylor’s experience in the US comes from assistant coaching jobs with Clarion University, Indiana University and Pittsburgh State University. He also spent time at Dodge City Legend in the USBL over the summer.

“I have made tremendous contacts in US college basketball and in pro basketball. Working at Dodge City in the USBL over the summer was a great experience. Let’s not forget that the USBL has produced 134 players that have gone on to play in the NBA!”

Last season provided his first head coaching job and his European experience at BV Chemnitz 99 and it was an experience that he thoroughly enjoyed.

“Last season was a very positive experience for me. I took a 12-14 team and turned it around and we won the Championship, so of course it was a great experience for me. It was very special, although there were a lot of challenges and obstacles to overcome – not just in terms of the language barrier. It was a very positive year, but certainly not an easy one.

“But I love challenges,” he continued. “I am embracing this opportunity with much enthusiasm and much determination. I know there is a lot of work ahead. We have basically been squeezing an entire off-season into two and a half weeks, so it has been hard work, but it’s been exciting too. I want to bring in a new winning attitude and a positive attitude and we are also raising the bar in terms of the work ethic too.”

Those buzz words ‘enthusiasm’, ‘determination’ and ‘hard work’ shine through vividly when talking to Coach Taylor, not only through the words he uses, but his tone of voice too. If you delve a little further into his basketball career, it becomes evident why that is.

Mike Taylor is a man who lives and breathes basketball. He was brought up surrounded by the game, thanks to his father, who was also a basketball coach and who boasts experience working as an assistant alongside the legendary Bob Knight as well as time spent with the New York Knicks.

“My father has been a huge influence on me,” stresses Taylor. “He has taught me a lot. I am the son of a coach and I have grown up around basketball and basketball has always been a massive part of my life. I played before I coached – in fact, I played alongside Derick Freeman at college.”

Taylor’s reference to his playing days also gives an insight into one of the Leopards’ new players, Derick Freeman. Taylor is looking for the 6’5” small forward to provide veteran leadership for the Leopards this season and their experience of playing together means that Coach Taylor knows exactly what he will be getting from Freeman.

He also highlights David Fisher as a key player on his 2002/03 roster, but at the same time admits that he is pretty happy with his team as a whole. Certainly, he has high hopes for the season ahead and is heading into action with his eyes wide open.

“The target I have set this team is to reach our potential. I want us to develop every day and take steps forward and go as far as we can go. I know it won’t always be easy and there will be ups and downs, but it’s important that we establish a positive, winning attitude and develop a good work ethic. 

“We will set ourselves goals, but those will be for the team to know only. I won’t broadcast those team goals, but what I will say is that they are extremely high.”

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