PORTLAND – Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Mike Taylor loved to play football and baseball.
“I played basketball because my dad was a coach,” Taylor said.
But Taylor’s attitude toward basketball turned into a passion. He played in college. He became a coach, first in college and then in Europe.
And soon, Taylor will be coaching in Portland.
The Boston Celtics said Friday that Taylor, 40, is the new coach of the Maine Red Claws, the NBA D-League franchise now affiliated solely with the Celtics.
The Red Claws will begin their fourth season Nov. 23 in Canton, Ohio. The first home game is Nov. 30 at the Portland Expo.
Taylor becomes the team’s third head coach. Dave Leitao resigned after one season last year, going 21-29. Austin Ainge coached the team’s first two seasons (45-55 overall record).
Ainge, now the Celtics’ director of player personnel, made the announcement. He said he liked Taylor’s experience, including 10 years as a coach in Europe. But something else made Taylor stand out.
“Positive energy,” Ainge said. “Obviously he knows what he’s doing and he has head coaching experience, which was important to us.
“But in developing young players in the D-League, which can be a tough place to play, you need a positive coach with a lot of energy.”
Taylor grew up with basketball. His father, Dick Taylor, was a college head coach (Lock Haven and Clarion), as well as an assistant in college (to Bob Knight at Army, among other schools) and the NBA (to Willis Reed, with the New York Knicks).
Mike Taylor played basketball for Indiana University of Pennsylvania from 1991-95, then was a college assistant from 1995 to 2001. Taylor then took a head coaching job with a third-division pro team in Germany.
“The idea was to get one year of coaching experience in Europe,” Taylor said.
Taylor ended up coaching 10 years in Europe, mostly in Germany, with one season in England.
“It kept getting better and better. I continued to learn and develop as a coach,” said Taylor, who also has coached the past three summers in the Czech Republic.
“I wasn’t so focused on ‘I need to get back to the USA.’ But then certain doors opened at opportune times.”
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers hired Taylor as an assistant coach last year, giving him his first taste of the D-League.
This past summer the Celtics called Taylor about the Red Claws job. The Celtics had entered a new relationship with the Maine team, becoming its sole NBA affiliate, and taking over the hiring of the coaches and personnel for the team.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” Taylor said. “I think it can be something really special.”
Despite Taylor’s experience, he won’t be bringing his particular brand of play to the Red Claws.
He will use the Celtics’ plays and schemes.
“It’s unusual. I’m trying to create the Celtics culture in Portland,” Taylor said. “I have my own ideas and philosophies, but I have great respect for (Boston Coach) Doc Rivers and the entire Celtics staff.
“It’s a privilege to coach the Celtics system.”
Taylor is spending his days at the Celtics’ training facility in Waltham, Mass., working with Boston’s coaches and learning the Celtics’ system. He will be there Saturday when the Celtics conduct an invitation-only tryout for the Red Claws.
Taylor and his fiance, Alice, will be in Portland by next month for the Red Claws’ training camp. He knows of the team’s popularity, ranking fifth in the league last year in average attendance (2,969).
Taylor also knows the Red Claws never have reached the playoffs.
“That’s the big challenge,” he said.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: