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This one’s for you Billy

Billy BallAfter time for some reflection (and being force to watch an NCAA tournament filled with teams I kind of hate) I feel that we should look back at the six years Billy Taylor coached in Muncie.

Why? Mainly because I feel like the Billy Taylor era needs it.

Phrases like “Billy Failure” are harsh and probably unfair. Yes Taylor had to go. Heck I thought he should have left last year. But to call his tenure a failure seems uneducated.

Doug Zaleski wrote in a column that Taylor just didn’t win enough.
“Taylor simply didn’t win enough games. He had one winning record. He never took BSU to the postseason.”

You mean coaches could get fired for not winning enough games? Wow I had no idea.

Some may be able to paint sports into a black and white picture of wins and losses. I can’t.

If sports were just wins and losses it would be no different from watching the stock market. Sure Ball State loss more games than it won the past six seasons. But the departures of key players through transfers and questionable decisions did more damage.

The fact that women’s basketball coach Brady Sallee has been so successful in his first season made it clear a change was needed on the men’s side too.

Yet Taylor came really close to keep in his job if a few things had gone differently.

2007-08

Taylor inherited a mess left by, insert adjective here, Ronny Thompson. The Cards were short on scholarship players and just short overall. Malik Perry was the tallest player at 6’4” and he was just a freshmen. Senior guard Peyton Stovall was really the only player on the roster that would have seen minutes on a quality team that season. The fear of Ball State going winless that year was quite real. Thankfully a win came at home on New Year’s Eve against bigger cupcake IFPW. Ball State somehow won six games that season. While the record was Ball State’s worst it was actually a great coaching job by Taylor. So far so good.

2008-09

This season opened with a victory against Eastern Illinois where freshmen Jarrod Jones was given a standing ovation for his performance that day. Team captain Anthony Newell went down for the year before conference play as many thought the year was lost. Taylor utilized a mix of transfer players, a good freshmen class, and a slow tempo to compensate for the team’s lack of depth. Thanks to the MAC West being God awful the Cardinals stole the two seed for the conference tournament. The high point coming with a MAC quarterfinal win over Central Michigan in overtime. I remember where I was when ESPN cut into the Big East Tournament to show an update of Ball State advancing after a made jumper from guard Brandon Lampley. The Cards lost in the semis to Buffalo, as the season was forgotten thanks to the women’s team beating Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament that year.

2009-10

The Cards were inexperience this season as sophomores Randy Davis and Jones were becoming the main guys along with Perry entering his junior year. The up and down year lead to an eight seed hosting Ohio in the first round of the MAC tournament. The game went to overtime with the Bobcats on top. Ohio would surprisingly go on to win the MAC even beat three seeded Georgetown in the NCAA tournament. I still say the difference between Ball State and Ohio that season was small. A win over Ohio and it might have been Ball State grabbing the glory.

2010-11

A make or break year for Taylor and the Cardinals came through winning 19 games. Ball State even beat Big East DePaul on the road. That may have been Taylor’s best win. The bad news was a loss to a division II Alaska Anchorage. That was his worst loss as it prevented the Cardinals form reaching 20 wins. Ball State would get revenge over Ohio in the MAC quarterfinals only to lose to Kent State in the semis. Then came the strange decision of opting out of postseason tournaments like the CBI to save money for a preseason trip to Canada in August. Anytime you can play exhibition games in Canada where no one will give a crap over playing in a postseason tourney in front of your own fans you have to do it. Hiring Stan Parrish made more sense than this move. Heck, hiring Ronny Thompson may … nah can’t say it. It was hands down the worst decision in Taylor’s six years here. Momentum from the season was lost and Malik Perry, the soul of the team, graduated.

2011-12

Expectations were through the roof as the Cardinals had experience and depth coming into the season. The depth took a hit with guard Tyrae Robinson having academic issues first semester. In addition players who were starting earlier in the season were losing playing time to some of the newcomers. The problems became noticeable in a blowout defeat to Akron at home. Ball State came in hoping to challenge the MAC’s best instead it imploded. The Cardinals lost their next seven conference games and went out with a whimper in the first round of the MAC tournament at Western Michigan. Teams that win 19 games the year before don’t struggle the next with most of the squad returning. Possible reasons included the death of player’s brother, but more had to have been going on than that. Taylor’s tendency to be calm on the sidelines was seen as a weakness when the season was falling apart. The lockeroom must have had issues that never came to the surface. If it was an NBA team or a bigger school we would know what happen but the internal issues from this season appears to remain a mystery. This season marked three straight years of missed opportunities.

2012-13

With losses from graduation and transfers Ball State had plenty of issues coming into this season. Forward Majok Majok and guards Jauwan Scaife and Jesse Berry made a season out of it leading Ball State to the 5 seed in the MAC tournament. But terrible early season losses, including a blowout from Indiana State at home killed fan interest. Not that there was much interest going into the season anyway. A loss to Buffalo in the second round of the MAC tournament sealed Taylor’s fate.

The last two seasons got away from Taylor with missed opportunities in the two seasons before that. Taylor never got to the MAC tournament final but then again no else did from the MAC West in that time either. I can’t say he failed as the program is much stronger today than it was when he came in. Kids graduated and we did not have any big scandals for six years. The next coach who comes in will have a program that’s just in need of improvement on the court. That should make it a job somebody wants.

As for Taylor I feel like he can still be a head coach somewhere else. Good luck.

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