25 years of Leopards – Mike Taylor interview

Mike Taylor was the final coach of the old Leopards, taking over late in the summer of 2002 following the sudden departure of Chris Pullem. Tony Shorey caught up with Taylor, who has gone on to coach extensively in Germany as well as calling the plays for the Polish national team – and he got some very honest answers.

How did you come to end up with the Leopards’ job?
It actually goes back to when I was an assistant coach at my college IUP ( Indiana university of Pennsylvania) in 1998. I took a few seniors to a pro tryout in Salt Lake city Utah where I met Robbie Peers and Paul James. Fast forward to my season coaching in Chemnitz 2001-2002, I visited Robbie in Chester during the holidays. He took good care of me and showed me the BBL. In March, after we won the regionaliga south east (3rd division) championship in Chemnitz, I immediately went back to the usa to work as an assistant coach for the Dodge city legend in the old USBL during May and June. I got the job by sending my application with a cover letter that said “I will work for a cheeseburger”. It was a great experience working for former Bulls forward Cliff Levingston and coaching former NBA players like Jimmy King of the Fab Five and Oliver Miller. My hope was to get to a top division team for the next step in my coaching career. I had some things I was looking at in the USA, but late in August my phone rang with opportunity. It was Ed Simons offering the Leopards job. I jumped at the chance without thinking twice. It was Robbie who put in a good word and recommendation. Let’s give Robbie an assist.

What were your initial thoughts about the club when you arrived?
The first weekend I arrived, Ed and Annie T welcomed me into their home along the River Thames . It was everything British I could imagine and their hospitality was fantastic. I felt very good in the family atmosphere. They explained to me the history of the club and where they were at during that summer. The challenges were clear but I was proud to be the coach and excited for the new season and new basketball experiences ahead. Because Ed and Annie-T were unsure if they wanted to continue that summer, we had a late start in team building and organization but I was all in and enthusiastic about the team.

Which player do you think turned out to be your best signing for Leopards?
It’s hard to point to one. Rod Brown was clearly our best player and he made such a big impact on the team excel vba datei downloaden. He was not really my signing as he was already established. When we won it was usually because he carried us. Yo rick Williams gave us a boost with his combination of shooting, athleticism and charisma. David Fisher did a lot of the blue collar work in the paint for that team. Unfortunately most of my signings that season did not distinguish themselves.

Which, if any player disappointed in your season with the Leopards?
Looking back I can say several signings did not produce as we hoped but we tried hard to improve the team throughout the season. I was disappointed Derrick Freeman arrived injured working his way back from an achiles injury. The jump proved to be too much for Taron Trahan. Randy Webster was also not good enough or professional enough. I respected guys who really cared and really worked.

With hindsight, what would you have done differently?
Looking back, as a young coach at that time, I gained great experience and learned from my mistakes. The opportunity was great for my growth. In terms of what I learned, first, when building a team put players in positions they are proven. For example, I asked too much from several players and they struggled to produce to those expectations . Examples were Sly McIntosh and David Fisher, two guys I brought with me from the USBL. Second, in building a team, experience in the league or on that level is critical. We signed too many unproven players that season and it was a big reason we struggled. In general, I am thankful for the season because I did my best and gained tremendous experience.

Did you ever wish you’d stayed in Germany with Chemnitz?
I was very excited about the Leopards, the British Basketball League and London herunterladen. It was the next step for me and was a big part of my development. Chemnitz continued to develop in a positive way too. One weekend David Fisher and I flew to Frankfurt Germanyto watch Chemnitz play. It was a fun time. I never looked back and was very thankful to be coaching Leopards that season.

Would you have stayed for a second year if the club had competed in 2003/4?
Yes, I enjoyed the team and the league and the country. I took alot of the experience from that season and worked hard to develop when I went to Ulm word herunterladen kostenlos pc. I would have happily applied those improvements to Leopards the next season. As fans will remember, we triedto find a buyer for the team and we hoped Tom Henner would be the man, but it was not to be. I can still remember our last game in Sheffield at Ponds Forge. We competed, lost to a tough Sharks team and were eliminated from the playoffs. Tom told us them a deal would not get done. Shortly after Ed put the team in hibernation. Dave Ryan asked me to stay around and help to work to bring the team back during the next year, but in my heart I love to coach basketball and that is what I wanted to do. This ledto my return to Germany in Ulm for 2003 – 2004 and was the start of a great 8 year run. I was very happy to see the Leopards return and respect the efforts of the fans led by Dave Ryan, Fred Dicker and many others. It shows gr eat passion and heart for their team.

Are you still in touch with any of your former Leopards?
Yes, I am in touch with a few. Sly McIntosh and our assistant Jeff Willms the most. I saw Trevor Diggs in Vegas last summer and am in touch with David Fisher from time to time. It’s easier today with social media so I’m happy to follow guys and keep in touch.

Any final thoughts about Leopards and the BBL in general?
I loved my time with the Leopards and am thankful for the chance to coach, make mistakes, learn and grow. It was definitely an important experience for my development. The BBL was fun. At the time with coaches like Nick Nurse and Chris Finch in it, the competition was very good. I’m really hopeful for the future of basketball in England and the BBL. I appreciate the people in the Leopards organization and the loyal fans. These friendships on and off the floor helped me as a young man overseas. Even to this day Icheck Leopards scores and follow the team. I’m thankful for my time as part of the team and consider myself a Leopard for life!

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