by Eric Koreen
Glenn Taylor might be working at Canadian Tire right now if the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team had a killer instinct last season.
“They lost nine games by three points or less last year,” said the rookie Rams coach, who last year worked at his family’s Canadian Tire in Fenelon Falls, Ont., 105 kilometres northeast of Toronto.
“So maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if that had happened.”
But the Rams, led by coach Patrick Williams, went 1-21 last season after going winless the season before.
Taylor, 52, was named Williams’s replacement in May.
Despite the team’s recent struggles, Taylor insists the Rams players have not accepted losing.
“Most of the players have a pretty positive attitude,” Taylor said. “The previous coach has given them a clear explanation that you just don’t win by showing up in the gym. It does take a lot of hard work.”
Taylor, a native of Brampton, Ont., has a history of turning troubled programs around.
Before Taylor’s arrival, the Memorial University Seahawks men’s team had won two games in five seasons. Under Taylor, they were ranked as high as fourth in the country, during the 1996-97 season. Taylor had previously coached the women’s team.
“He knows what it’s like to take the worst team in the country and make it competitive,” said Rams veteran forward Peeter Veltmann.
“Guys believe in him.”
The players say there is a big difference between the tendencies of Williams and Taylor, although they were quick to make clear their admiration for Williams.
“There’s no joking around,” said Rams centre Igor Bakovic. “You’ve got to go with what the coach says or you’re not going to play.”
“I’m not trying to put down Patrick (Williams) at all,” said Geoff Proctor, the Rams’ leading scorer last season. “I’m excited to see what Glenn (Taylor) has to offer.”
Taylor was also an accomplished player. He was named a first-team all-star in the Atlantic University Sports conference in 1975 as a member of the Acadia Axemen.
“Glenn is very experienced, not just in coaching, but managing,” said Terry Haggerty, Ryerson’s manager of interuniversity sport. “He did the job in Memorial twice, building a good, solid program.”
Taylor expects the Rams to start improving this year. Veterans Duane Benjamin and Brandon Krupa join Proctor, Bakovic and Veltmann. The Rams added a lauded shooting guard in N’Kruma Hylton, a transfer from Cape Breton University.
“In Newfoundland, I had kids who had tremendous work ethic, relentless in their ability not to quit,” Taylor said, already decked out in his navy and gold Ryerson vest. “That’s one of the qualities I’ll be looking for this year.”
This is Taylor’s first full-time university coaching position, meaning he can focus on the Rams.
“It’s a lifelong dream I’ve had to be a full-time, paid coach at the university level,” Taylor said. “I consider Ryerson one of the premier coaching positions in Canada, because you’re in the area of the Golden Horseshoe, where you probably have the largest basketball talent pool in the country.”
While Taylor is hesitant to predict win totals or where his club will finish, his boss is thinking big.
“I think with six of eight teams making the playoffs … they’ve got a crack at making it this year for sure,” said Haggerty, who coached the men from 1981 to 2003 and led the Rams to a national championship appearance in 1999.
“We want this program to be highly competitive within (Ontario),” Haggerty said. “That means you’re always in the playoffs, you’re always hosting playoff games, you’re winning championships. We’ve done it here before and we can do it here again. And Glenn can be a part of that.”