It was a precipitous fall for Blaine Taylor, the most successful basketball coach in Old Dominion history, who was fired Tuesday afternoon. Less than two years ago at the Verizon Center, Taylor guided the Monarchs against Butler in a rugged, electric-charged NCAA tournament game, decided on the final possession.
But with a shocking 2-20 record this season, including an 85-74 loss Monday night to George Mason, it was clear the program was in free fall, perhaps a victim of the school's ambitions in football.
With a football program that is only four years old, Old Dominion will transition from the FCS to FBS in 2015. To facilitate the move, ODU will join Conference USA next year, becoming another school chasing football dollars at the expense of the basketball program.
Taylor leaves ODU with a 239-144 record, four NCAA tournament appearances, three CAA championships and seven 20-win seasons in the last eight years heading into this season. Those accomplishments should have bought Taylor more time to re-chart the course of the program, unless there is more to his firing.
Taylor received a vote of confidence two weeks ago from athletic director Wood Selig. But on a coach's show appearance on Jan. 21, Taylor sounded disoriented, sparking fears that he was drinking. In 1995 as coach at Montana, Taylor underwent alcohol rehab after a DUI arrest.
"This decision is not based solely on wins and losses, but on a number of factors by which a head coach is evaluated," Selig said in a statement. "Our student athletes need mentorship, leadership and guidance."
- Kevin Dunleavy