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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Commentary: The ship will be righted

Womens+Basketball+head+coach+Joni+Taylor+questions+a+call+during+A%26amp%3BMs+game+against+Texas+A%26amp%3BM-Corpus+Christi+at+Reed+Arena+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+10%2C+2022.
Photo by Luca Yaquinto

Women’s Basketball head coach Joni Taylor questions a call during A&M’s game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Reed Arena on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

It’s hard to replace a legend. 

Hard might even be an understatement. Learning how to ride a bike is hard, but replacing a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach who led his team to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, five conference championships and a national championship in 2011? Some might say that’s impossible.

What Gary Blair left behind at A&M was a legacy of winning, and that’s why Year 1 of the Joni Taylor era has come under heavy scrutiny. This season’s 5-11 record and winless conference play so far, is seemingly unfamiliar territory for a program so familiar with success.

9-19.

What’s the relevancy of that record? That was Gary Blair’s record in his first year at A&M. This was also his first losing season in his entire coaching tenure, up to that point. This season will — more likely than not — end with a losing record for women’s basketball, which would give Joni Taylor a losing season on her resume, the first of her head-coaching career.

Joni Taylor, much like Blair, had success before coming to A&M, and is accustomed to winning. The only difference between the two is Blair adopted one of the worst Big 12 teams out there, so if they kept losing, it was no harm, no foul. You can’t get much lower than rock bottom. 

Taylor on the other hand adopted a program in a very delicate state, where after years of constant success, cracks were beginning to show, so coming in and mending those cracks was paramount. That mending process, contrary to what many believe, cannot and will not happen in a single season.

College teams are not machines. You cannot have a head coach come in and expect all underlying problems to be immediately fixed. 

The issue lies in the fact that colleges, and the alumni who support them, believe success is a sprint. You must succeed as quickly as possible, no matter the circumstances. That is simply not the case. 

Success is more of a marathon. It’s slow, it’s building, it may not seem like much progress is being made at first but it’s the gradual buildup of resources that are essential to succeed that leads to teams winning in the long-term.

A coach should not be expected to come into a program in one of the toughest conferences in the country with a single class of players that she has recruited, alongside a roster that — besides graduate guard and forward McKinzie Green and Aaliyah Patty — have very little playing experience and immediately have success.

Joni Taylor will be a successful basketball coach at A&M. She has already proven she can bring in the best, with three top-100 players in last year’s class with guards Sydney Bowles and Mya Petticord, as well as the No. 3 overall recruit in forward Janiah Barker. Pair that with three more top-100 recruits on the way next season, Taylor is setting herself up for success.

It may be frustrating to watch, painful even, but winning coaches do not win because of how winning feels, it is because they hate what it feels like to lose, and Joni Taylor is one of those coaches. Whatever feelings you may have towards this season, she is feeling tenfold. However, Taylor has shown that she will utilize whatever talent she has to the best of her abilities. 

While the winless conference record may hurt to look at, acknowledge the fact that with a roster ravaged by injury, including three of the starting five, Taylor’s team has managed to hold every SEC opponent, so far, under their points per game average. Now imagine what that will look like in three years, three top recruiting classes under her belt, a bench lined with top-100 recruits that she recruited. The signs of success are out there if you know where to look.

Do not abandon ship on A&M women’s basketball. A new captain has to assemble their crew, and once that happens, the ship will be righted. There is no replacing Gary Blair and his legacy, but there is establishing the foundation for a new coach to come in and write her name in the record books at A&M. Taylor will put A&M back on the path of perennial success, just give her time.

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