By Dorothy J. Gentry
Joni Taylor knows what it takes to be a winner.
She was the 2021 SEC Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year after leading the Georgia Bulldogs women’s basketball team to a 21-7 record and to the SEC Tournament Championship game for the first time since 2004. She led the Bulldogs to four NCAA Tournaments, including top-four seeds in 2018 and 2021.
In addition, last year, Taylor, and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, became the first pair of African American female head coaches to coach against one another in the SEC Tournament title game.
Her winning ways are now in Texas. Last week she was named head coach at Texas A&M, the school’s eighth women’s basketball head coach in program history.
“I am extremely excited and humbled to have the opportunity to lead the Texas A&M women’s basketball program. You are talking about a program that is rich with tradition and an institution that leads not only in the SEC, but in the country.
“I am excited to get there and meet the team and immerse myself and our family into Aggieland,” she said.
Taylor, 43, told media during her introductory press conference at College Station that she and her family plan to be very visible interacting with the fan base and the Bryan/College Station community.
“We are excited about getting here and getting ourselves immersed. In Athens (Georgia), we were very, very visible and we plan to be the same here. We’ve got a lot to learn. And, again, we want to lean into the Bryan/College Station community, to Aggieland, to show us the way.
“But you’re going to see us around. You’re going to see my kids around, our family, our parents around. We’re going to be recognizable and involved. And we want to help. We want to serve our community and do what we can to help.”
Taylor succeeds longtime head coach and Hall-of-Famer Gary Blair who led the Aggies for 19 years. Over those years the Aggies won five conference titles, reached the NCAA Tournament 16 times and won the NCAA Championship in 2011.
“Texas A&M women’s basketball stands for excellence and integrity on and off the court. As we began our search to replace Coach Blair, it was so important that we found the right leader and person who would exemplify these same qualities and someone who understood what being an Aggie is all about,” said Texas A&M Director of Athletics Ross Bjork.
“As the process evolved, and the more we got to know Coach Taylor, it became crystal clear that she is the right coach to lead our program into this new era of Aggie basketball. Her passion, energy, knowledge of the game, recruiting acumen, experience in the SEC and leadership in modern day college athletics are all the characteristics that make Coach Taylor the perfect fit for Texas A&M and our basketball program.”
Taylor said she has known Coach Blair since she was a player at the University of Alabama, and he was a coach at Arkansas and has always respected him and his basketball acumen.
“The way he led young women on and off the court and was a steward of our game is something I have always admired,” Taylor said. “He created a National Championship program during his 19 years at A&M and to be able to continue that legacy is an honor.” Taylor, a Meridian, Mississippi, native, spent the first seven years of her head coaching career leading the Georgia women’s basketball program. She amassed 140 victories with a .651 winning percentage and 64 wins in SEC play. She is married and has two children.