PORTLAND – The basketball coach is a hockey guy. Mike Taylor was just like the rest of us Wednesday night, in front of a television, caught up in playoff hockey watching Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. Watching to see if the Boston Bruins would beat the Chicago Blackhawks again.
Scratch the second-year Maine Red Claws basketball coach and find a puckster. Who would have thought?
“It’s tough,” said Taylor, who lived much of his childhood within an hour or two of Pittsburgh. “Especially after the Bruins smashed my Pens. But if you live in Maine you’ve got to root for the Bruins, right? I live in Maine.”
Even if it does seem he’s always answering his phone somewhere else.
Taylor was back in Portland this week to tend to business and stay connected with his adopted city. He leaves again, soon. The Boston Celtics will have a team of hopefuls in a summer league in Orlando, Fla., and Taylor is part of that coaching staff.
Then it’s on to the Czech Republic in August. Taylor is again coach of the Czech National Team this summer. He’s no different from any player, always looking for a game, a paycheck and the chance to move up basketball’s ladder.
Taylor smiles again. The Czech Republic is not Germany or Spain or Italy, where basketball has a chance to grab a little attention from soccer. The Czechs love their hockey and soccer.
“Basketball is the minor sport,” said Taylor. “But it’s fun and it is basketball.”
It’s hard to believe the Red Claws’ season ended only two months ago with the back-to-back losses to the Rio Grande Vipers in the first round of the NBA Development League playoffs.
But then, the NBA season finally ended Thursday night with Game 7 of its championship series. Taylor was in front of a television again, although for him the difference between the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs was night and day.
He knows too much about basketball to watch the game as a fan. He’s the head coach of the Spurs or the Heat as he watches. He works to understand the game plans, second-guessing as the follows the flow of the game.
He knows too little about hockey to watch it as a coach. “I’m just a pure fan enjoying myself.”
Mike Taylor is an employee of the Boston Celtics. He loves the organization, its culture, its people and its professionalism. But don’t bother asking Taylor what’s up with Doc Rivers and the talk that the current Celtics coach might be the next coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Like everyone else, I’m just watching to see what happens,” said Taylor. “What happens to Doc has no effect on me. I do have so much respect for him. I know how much he’s helped me.”
Taylor is the son of a college coach who understands how to separate the good coaching lessons from the bad. He took the Red Claws to their first NBA D-League playoffs in April, although it wasn’t easy.
“It felt like I coached three different teams. The team we started the season with, the team that lost five straight games after the big trade (Kris Joseph for James Mays on Feb. 10), and the team that recovered to win games (in March).”
He still finds himself opening his laptop, going to YouTube and watching archived Red Claws games from last season. Sure, it’s done in hindsight. But learning is learning.
Taylor didn’t say who he favored in Thursday night’s NBA finals. His takes on the Spurs and the Heat gave him away.
“People say you’re looking at a boring team when you watch the Spurs. That’s very unfair. (Tony) Parker, (Manu) Ginobili, (Tim) Duncan are very efficient. They play into that identity of a team where all the pieces fit the team concept. You see (guards) Danny Green and Cory Joseph, both D-League players who are fundamentally sound.
“The Heat are supremely talented. The Heat are a show and if you love basketball you get excited.”
Taylor is a new husband. He married this spring, meeting his bride when he coached in Ulm, Germany. He was there for eight years, turning a lackluster club into a winner.
Sometime this fall he’ll come back to Portland and stay awhile. He can’t wait.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: