|New coach arrives at Ball State amid NCAA inquiry, racial claims|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 08 August 2007 13:10|
Taylor was 81-69 in five seasons at Lehigh, including a Patriot League championship in 2004. Now he'll take over a team that went 9-22 in Thompson's only season.
As a black coach, Taylor said he had some concerns coming into the program, but was ``confident in the process that has been set forth to resolve the NCAA issues.''
Thompson resigned July 12, weeks after school officials said notes slipped under basketball office doors included racial slurs along with references to ``cheaters'' and ``liars.'' Thompson's resignation letter shows that he resigned because of the ``racially hostile work environment'' he had faced.
Taylor said he was aware of Thompson's concerns, and they gave him pause.
``I wanted to make sure that this community was going to be one where I could raise my children and my wife could be comfortable,'' he said.
Another black coach, IUPUI's Ron Hunter, said he withdrew as a candidate for the Ball State job.
Taylor replaced Thompson, the son of Hall of Fame coach John Thompson and brother of John III, who led Georgetown to the Final Four last season.
Ronny Thompson resigned last month amid accusations that he broke NCAA rules. Ball State still faces numerous questions from the NCAA, including an allegation that school officials fired the women's volleyball coach for reporting suspected infractions by Thompson and his staff.
Taylor said school president Jo Ann Gora and athletic director Tom Collins were open about the situation and helped him feel good about the move. He also spoke with other coaches for opinions.
``We're looking forward, not looking back,'' Collins said. ``I wish Ronny and his family the best, but now it's time to start the new chapter, the Billy Taylor chapter.''
Lehigh athletic director Joe Sterrett said he was happy for Taylor, but now he must scramble to find a coach.
``I would like to thank Billy Taylor for his dedication to Lehigh during his time here and for the job he did with our men's basketball program,'' Sterrett said. ``Unfortunately, I think the timing of this is less than ideal. I hope this move turns out to be the right one for Billy.''
Last season was Ball State's fourth with a losing record in the past five years and its worst since going 9-18 in 1986-87. Ball State has not played in the NCAA tournament since 2000, its longest period without an NCAA bid after making the tourney seven times since 1981.
Taylor had a chance to recruit before his first season at Lehigh but won't have that luxury at Ball State.
``It's so difficult that first year, whether it's April or August,'' he said. ``It's tough to really find the right fits and the right players at that late time. It's important for us to get off to a good start in this recruiting period and to make the key connections so that we can be successful in the early signing period in November.''