Not many other programs in the state can match the passion and tradition the Quincy boys' basketball team possesses.|
On the other side, very few have a sect of fans with such a disillusioned view of reality.
For reasons unexplained to him on Wednesday morning, Sean Taylor was relieved of his duties as the Quincy head coach. The Quincy School Board voted unanimously -- with one of the seven members abstaining -- to cut ties with a coach who has a state title on his resume and recently was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
In a prepared statement, Quincy school board president Stephanie Erwin simply said, "We have decided to move in a different direction." Erwin, according to the Quincy Herald-Whig, declined further comment.
Taylor, showing his true character that some in the Gem City do not see, faced the heat hours later.
"I'm disappointed," Taylor told The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus on Wednesday. "We've always tried to do what's right for the program and school. And we've competed at a very high level with the groups we've had. We've tried to maximize our talent and we've done that."
Hired prior to the 2003-04 season from Macomb High School, Taylor compiled a 194-107 record with five regional titles and four Western Big 6 Conference championships. Taylor inherited a mess as the program was placed on probation prior to his arrival for violating IHSA bylaws regarding recruitment of players.
At a low point, he guided the Blue Devils back to respectability in an ethical and moral view.
Some thought the program was slipping into mediocrity under his watch, wanting it to relive the glory days of the early 1980s.
"The expectation is always to win," said Taylor, who guided Shelbyville to the 1996 Class A state title. " ... There are people who want to win at all costs and by any means. I butted heads with guys from Day 1 (on that). I told myself we're going to do it the right way. The people who didn't support me, I was OK with that. They weren't in it for the right reasons."
When he was hired in the spring of 2003, Taylor claims being told by an administrator to do three things:
- Compete with Quincy student-athletes.
- Encourage multi-sport participation from its athletes.
- End ties with an influential booster club member.
In the 17 years before his arrival, he said the Blue Devils had nine players in the program from outside the district boundaries. Taylor stopped that trend, even though he was "asked to call some players outside our district to come to our school."
Winning that right way apparently is unacceptable to those with power in that community.
That is a pure shame.
Taylor tried to instill character, honor and respect in the program, but some only cared about maintaining a winning tradition that has not been there for more than 30 years. Never mind the $25,000 the team helped raise for cancer-related programs the last decade or the reading program established in the elementary schools.
Success -- by whatever means necessary -- superseded everything. What a joke.
"We did gain the respect of Western Big 6 teams and teams throughout the state," Taylor said. "The majority of the community saw that. You get a couple of people on the board that see that differently. That's who employs."
People in charge see dusty banners inside Blue Devil Gym. The trophy case has not been updated since Quincy place third in the 1998 Class AA state tournament. The Blue Devils last won a sectional in 2000.
That is not Taylor's fault.
As he noted earlier this season after a game at the Panther Den, Quincy last had a home-grown Division I recruit in 2000. He never coached a player who eventually earned all-state first-team honors from The Associated Press.
Given the hand he was dealt, Taylor still kept Quincy competitive. Bruce Douglas and Michael Payne did not walk the Quincy hallways when he was head coach.
"The program was blessed for a long time with great home-grown talent. They were so blessed with great players," Taylor said. "Then when that stopped, that's when they started going outside the area and outside the country to get more of those guys. The reason why I was brought in was that had gone too far."
Taylor followed the guidelines issued to him when he was hired.
"I've always believed you compete with who you have in your district," Taylor said. "When you want to get the best players out there by any means, I've never believed that's the purpose of high-school sports."
Winning is the goal of sports, but it should not define success at the prep level. The school board, perhaps influenced by grumblings from booster members, only saw what happened on the court. Making matters worse, Taylor never was personally notified of their intent to vote for his dismissal.
When it was made official, Taylor said he learned from the local media.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," Taylor said.
When word broke on Wednesday morning, social media exploded. One rival coach was livid with the announcement, even using an expletive over the phone. Every comment made supported Taylor as a coach and person.
The ones who make the final decision thought otherwise.
"As a coaching staff," Taylor said, "we've done everything we possibly could to make this a great basketball program."
Taylor wants to continue his coaching career, hoping to "get another opportunity." That will not be an issue.
Other programs will see what Taylor brings and recognize few coaches come any better.
Quincy failed to see that. Some were too busy living in the past.
Contact prep sports reporter Daniel Makarewicz at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @danmak57.