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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M welcomes Joni Taylor as new women’s basketball head coach

Joni+Taylor+is+taking+over+as+the+new+head+coach+for+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+womens+basketball+program+with+the+retirement+of+former+head+coach+Gary+Blair.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Ishika Samant

Joni Taylor is taking over as the new head coach for Texas A&M’s women’s basketball program with the retirement of former head coach Gary Blair. 

Let the Joni Taylor era in Aggieland begin.
On Thursday, March 24, Texas A&M Athletics hosted a welcome event at Reed Arena for the new head coach of the women’s basketball program. In front of a crowd of fans, student-athletes, coaches and her family, Taylor was formally introduced as head coach.
Attendees included former women’s basketball coach and Hall of Famer Gary Blair, men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams — fresh off a dominant win over Wake Forest at Reed Arena in the NIT quarterfinals the night before — current and former players on the women’s basketball team and athletic director Ross Bjork.
“It’s really an exciting day for Texas A&M and Texas A&M Athletics, and, of course, our women’s basketball program,” Bjork said. “Coach Taylor is the eighth [head] coach here for Texas A&M women’s basketball. She’s an experienced coach and really at the highest level within the SEC.”
The event was a family affair for Taylor, as her husband and assistant general manager for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, Darius, daughters Jacie and Drew, mother Hargie Crenshaw, father Jonas Crenshaw and mother- and father-in-law were all in attendance.
In his speech, Bjork discussed the searching and hiring process he and deputy athletic director Kristen Brown undertook to bring the former University of Georgia head coach to College Station. While leading the Lady Bulldogs, Taylor went 140-75 while earning SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2021.
“We interviewed all kinds of people, all kinds of coaches at the highest level of college basketball. So, our search was very, very thorough,” Bjork said. “As we sought a new leader for this new era, our priority was to find the right coach, the right leader, but more importantly, the right person. Someone who would create and define this new identity of our storied women’s basketball program, but also someone who would live up to the high standard of excellence in all phases.”
Brown touched on how the duo searched for a coach that embodied the Core Values of A&M while taking the program to new heights.
“[A&M is] a place that’s built on Core Values of Respect, Excellence, Leadership, Loyalty, Integrity, and Selfless Service,” Brown said. “And, as Ross [Bjork] and I were going through the search process, those traits, of course, were at the top of our mind. When we first had the opportunity to officially meet coach Taylor … it was very, very clear that her vision and her philosophy and her values were in alignment with those of Texas A&M.”
Bjork added that Taylor’s ability to develop strong relationships with her players and staff were a major selling point as well.
“It’s more than just basketball for coach Taylor,” Bjork said. “It’s making an impact on the lives of young women with whom she’s entrusted to care for. Coach Taylor is special in more than just what we see on the basketball court. Those characteristics are what drew us to her, and hopefully our characteristics drew her to us.”
In her own speech, Taylor thanked those who have helped her reach this point in her career while sharing her vision for the future of A&M women’s basketball.
“I get asked a lot about what’s the vision for the program,” Taylor said. “It’s pretty simple. We want to develop young women that have great character and who will compete in the classroom and on the court and that will represent themselves, their families and this university in a first-class manner and be visible in our community. When players leave Aggieland after their career is over, we want them to not only leave with a degree but with a love for Texas A&M that is so strong that they just cannot stay away.”
Taylor went on to lay down her expectations for her players as she addressed the fans in the crowd.
“Specifically as it relates to basketball, I’m not going to stand here in front of you today and make a bunch of promises,” Taylor said. “But, what I can tell you is that we’re going to play extremely hard. We’re going to defend at a high level. We’re going to play together as a team. We’re going to put a product on the floor that you can be proud of and be excited to get behind and support. We have the resources, the facilities and the support to do great things here on a national level, and that is the standard. That’s what we will strive for.”
Following the welcome event, Taylor and Bjork fielded questions from members of the media. Taylor started by giving her thoughts on replacing Blair at the helm of the program after previously succeeding Hall of Fame coach Andy Landers at Georgia in 2015.
“I consider it to be an opportunity,” Taylor said. “I learned so much from coach Landers and I have learned so much from Gary Blair just from observing him and the lessons he’s given me. It’s an opportunity for me to continue to enhance what he created here. I never walk into a situation thinking that, ‘This is mine,’ or, ‘This is just about one person.’ This is about women’s basketball and making sure that Texas A&M women’s basketball is in the best position possible.”
Taylor also detailed what brought her to A&M and what stood out to her about the university and its women’s basketball program and culture.
“Ross [Bjork] and Kristin [Brown] said it best: Our Core Values align. That is extremely important for me,” Taylor said. “The commitment to women’s basketball is clear, and that is something that I want to be a part of at the highest level.”
Taylor already seems to be fitting into the Aggie culture based on her response when asked a question by a reporter wearing a light orange shirt.
“First of all, I can’t believe they let you wear orange here,” Taylor humorously said. “Is that allowed?”
Taylor, a University of Alabama alum, also clarified her team allegiance when asked if she still says the school’s slogan of “Roll Tide.”
“No, no. I used to,” Taylor said. “There’s been some separation there. I love the University of Alabama. It has shaped who I am. I still give back to the University of
Alabama, to women’s basketball. I cheer for them when we are not playing against them. But, it is not automatic anymore for me to say ‘Roll Tide.’ Absolutely not.”
As A&M turns the page to a new chapter of the women’s basketball program, the coaching staff and players may change, but the high standards will remain the same.

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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