After seven years and three consecutive state tournament appearances, Willie Taylor has stepped down as Stillwater’s girls basketball coach.
The local coaching legend said with his daughter starting high school next year, this seemed like the perfect time to shift his focus.
Between the time required to lead a successful program and the lengthy drive down Highway 36 each day, the job demanded a lot of Taylor’s time.
“Whether she does basketball or not, I’m going to be involved in my daughter’s life,” Taylor said. “This is the last kid I’ll ever have. She is a fantastic kid.”
The Ponies won just 10 games the season before Taylor took over the program in 2014. He since has lifted the program into the state’s upper echelon. The Ponies reached the state title game in 2019, where they were only bested by Paige Bueckers’ Hopkins squad.
Taylor has led three programs to state, winning two state titles with Central. The Ponies have turned out a number of Division I players in recent years, including current Gophers guard Sara Scalia. But what means more to Taylor than the victories are the off-the-court lessons he’s been able to teach. Every February, he spoke with his team about Black History Month and dove into the topic. He shared his experiences growing up as a Black man. The Ponies discussed George Floyd’s death.
“Sometimes, when you’re not around people who are different than you, you don’t really have an idea about those people. You have to go with what you hear and what you see on TV,” Taylor said. “And I think that I exposed these kids at Stillwater to race.”
Never did he receive a complaint about that.
Taylor is grateful to Ponies athletic director Ricky Michel for giving him a chance years ago. Taylor said Michel was nothing but great to work with, and always knew when to make a joke to keep things light. Taylor’s mission at Stillwater was to prove the AD right.
“He’s a great guy,” Taylor said.
Taylor received a number of phone calls from folks Wednesday, many wanting to know if he would coach again.
“Yeah, I’m going to coach. I love basketball. I love coaching,” Taylor said. “But this next year, I’m not going to coach basketball unless I’m in some kind of way involved with my daughter.”