Taylor Loving Life As An Assistant

Sometimes it’s more fun the second time around. Just ask Punahou’s Mike Taylor, who “retired” from active high school coaching after the 2011 girls basketball season. In the previous decade, he had won four state championships – more than anyone in state history except Kamehameha’s Al Apo and Konawaena’s Bobby Awa, who have five each.

Taylor, an elementary schoolteacher, needed a break, but he wouldn’t be gone for long.

“The first year was fine, the second year I was getting restless,” he tells me. “I had been coaching every year since I got of high school (1990), and in some of those years, I coached both the boys (in the winter) and the girls (in the spring), and then summer league. I had to take care of a few things, and it was a nice break, but I missed working with the kids and helping develop their skills, and everything that was associated with it.”

So when his old high school mentor, current Punahou girls basketball head coach Kevin Velasco, gave him a call, Taylor jumped at the chance to become the Buffanblu’s assistant coach this season.

“I was very happy to assist Kevin. He had coached me back in high school and in summer league,” he says.

Taylor says he loves his new role. “I’m seeing the game from a different perspective,” he says. “It’s fun.”

He and Velasco have molded a young team into one of the top contenders in the ILH girls basketball race this winter. But he knows it’s going to be a challenge to secure one of the league’s two berths to the Division I state tournament that starts Feb. 7-8 in Honolulu. Kamehameha is the defending champion.

“All the teams are tough this year,” states Taylor.

Over the holidays, Taylor dipped into his own past to put together a practice scrimmage to help his current crop of players. My daughter Becky, who played for Taylor on the undefeated Punahou team that won the state title in 2003, ran into him during a University of Hawaii men’s basketball game. He asked her to join a number of other alumni and former players to take on this year’s squad. Becky, who now coaches high school girls in the Washington, D.C,. area, couldn’t have been more thrilled to join in.

“We had about 12-15 former players from Punahou and some that I had coached in summer ball from Iolani and Maryknoll. (Former Buffanblu star) Christine Takara had called around and got the girls together. She did a great job,” Taylor says.

The list of former stars included Christine, Becky, Ki’i Spencer-Vasconcellos, Ginger Gravelle, Cheryl Lee and many more.

“They really gave our girls a good run,” he says. “We have a young team, so they put us in a number of challenging situations and really tested us. It was a great game.”

More than that, the former players were able to give the high school players some life lessons, too. Many had been involved in stressful championship races themselves and many had gone on to play collegiately.

“They shared some of their experiences and that was great. All of our girls really looked up to them,” he says.

You can tell that Taylor found the experience very invigorating. His passion for the game, which has always been there, is now stronger than ever. He has another incentive: His daughter Lexi is a freshman guard on Punahou’s team this year. Lexi and her twin brother Logan, a ninth-grader who plays on the Intermediate team at Iolani, literally grew up with their dad in the basketball gym.

“They both turned 15 in December,” he says. “This job has allowed me to be at a number of Logan’s games, too. I love being an assistant coach.”

Coach Mike Taylor is back where he belongs.