We all have had to face a tough decision during our lives. Do I stay or do I go? Where to live, work? Whom to marry? What to eat for lunch this afternoon? Both big and small, we all have had to make choices. Newly hired Atlanta Dream assistant coach Darius Taylor is no different.

Following the University of South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team’s Final Four appearance in 2015, Taylor, then an assistant coach on Dawn Staley’s staff, made the toughest decision of his career to date. He left. Taylor didn’t leave for the greener pastures of a bigger program, though now there is arguably no women’s program bigger and better than the reigning national champions.

Taylor left the program so that his wife, current University of Georgia head women’s basketball coach Joni Taylor, could fulfill her dream of becoming a head coach without any friction.

“I stepped away from collegiate coaching to be around and support my wife’s first head coaching job,” said Taylor by phone. Being an opportunity within the Southeastern Conference, Darius and Joni would have been recruiting the same players and coaching against one another in the same conference.

Married for a couple years with a 14-month old daughter, their marriage was surely strong enough to handle a couple recruiting wars, but the multi-skilled Taylor decided to put that University of Michigan education to use.

“I think the biggest thing is that we both support each other,” says Taylor, 39, of his wife and his understanding of the collegiate game and all that comes with it. “With the non-conflicting schedules she can be around to support me and vice versa.”

The college game’s loss is now the WNBA’s and more specifically, the Atlanta Dream’s gain. Taylor will join new coach Nicki Collen’s staff and he’s ready to get back into the game after a few years away, sort of.

“Through some mutual friends, I learned that coach Collen was looking for new assistants and after a few interviews I got the offer,” says Taylor, a former University of Michigan player. His time as a Wolverine taught him a lot about being tough under duress. As a sophomore walk-on he had to deal with the dismissal of Steve Fischer and the ultimate confusion a coaching change can bring. Either way, he has no regrets.

“I got to learn a lot about the game from the bench,” he jokes and describes playing at Michigan as “a great experience.”

After accepting the job with the Dream and getting back into coaching full-time he says, “I’m really excited and really looking forward to helping make the Dream a championship contender again.” During his break from the game Taylor did coach some AAU ball in Athens and Atlanta, started a basketball skill development training company and became a licensed realtor. “In a way all of it still came back to coaching,” said Taylor.

The balancing act that is having two coaches in the family will require another set of decisions that the Taylors will have to approach when the time comes. After all, July is prime time for college basketball recruiting, and just so happens to fall in the middle of the WNBA season.

“We will just make it work,” says Taylor of the future disruptions. “We both know the business, we’re use  to the grind and always find ways to put our marriage first.”

The Atlanta Dream finished the 2017 season 12-22 after going 17-17 and making the playoffs in 2016.  Room for improvement is there and a new coaching staff is preparing to take over. Taylor is a part of that group and he’s ready to bring to Atlanta what he learned in five years at South Carolina, and four years at Temple University in Philadelphia; both while coaching alongside Staley.

“I learned a lot from a pretty good coach in Dawn Staley,” says Taylor. “I also learned what successful basketball looks like and how it should be done.”

Taylor brings a wealth of knowledge to the Dream staff and most importantly, some high-level decision-making ability. “I bring a hard work ethic and a specialization in post player development,” says Taylor who while coaching in college has helped a number of post players develop into professionals in the WNBA and overseas. “I’m going to be there to help the players any way that I can.”  

On Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Lady Bulldogs won their final pre-conference game of the season defeating the University of North Florida 75-37 in Athens. Taylor sat not too far from the bench and watched the action. Early in his wife’s tenure with the team – they are 12-1 at the moment with their sole loss coming to the University of Texas on Dec. 3 –  during a practice, Taylor shouted out an instruction from behind the bench. His wife quickly requested that he not do that so as to not confuse the players on the court. “Now I stay silent, watch and observe, he says regarding Lady Bulldogs games and practices.

Coaching never left his blood and it’s a good thing. There’s a WNBA season coming up and a seat on the Atlanta Dream bench with his name on it.

Taylor, who spent time as player at the University of Michigan and as an assistant coach at Temple University and the University of South Carolina, will bring a wealth of knowledge tgo the Atlanta Dream staff. Photo credit: Twitter

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