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Fred Taylor, 77; Longtime Basketball Coach at Ohio State

January 07, 2002|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Fred Taylor, who coached an Ohio State team that featured Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and a seldom-used sub named Bobby Knight to the 1960 NCAA championship, died Sunday at 77.

Taylor died at a suburban Columbus nursing facility where he had lived since suffering a brain aneurysm in 1996. He had a heart attack a year later.

"Fred Taylor was an absolute giant in coaching," said a tearful Knight, longtime Indiana coach now at Texas Tech. "You could have no way played for a better coach in college from whom you learned more and in no way could have had a better friend.

"What's my team? My team is an extension of his team."

Havlicek credited his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics to Taylor's teaching, commenting: "I don't think I would have gotten anywhere without his tutelage. My career was based on what I learned from Fred Taylor. He shaped me tremendously."

National college coach of the year in 1961 and 1962, Taylor led his alma mater to seven Big Ten titles during his 18 years as coach.

Taylor's last public appearance came in 1998 at the final game played in St. John Arena. He received a long standing ovation as he was pushed to center court in a wheelchair. Ohio State named a room in its new arena after Taylor.

Taylor's .778 winning percentage in NCAA tournament games is the eighth highest, and his teams were 14-4 in the tournament. His career record was 297-158 when he retired after the 1975-76 season--before turning 50.

Taylor starred on the 1950 Big Ten basketball championship team at Ohio State. He became the Buckeyes' freshmen coach in 1954 and regular coach in 1958.

He won the NCAA title in 1960 and took teams to the championship game the next two years--a feat matched only by UCLA's John Wooden, Cincinnati's Ed Jucker and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

Ohio State defeated California 75-55 in San Francisco for the 1960 title, but lost the championship game the next two years to Cincinnati. The Bearcats beat Ohio State 70-65 in overtime in 1961 and 71-59 in 1962.

All five starters on the 1960 team went on to the NBA: Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried, Mel Nowell and Joe Roberts.

"I had a love affair with those kids," Taylor said. "They weren't very sound defensively at the start of the season. As they progressed, they could play pretty thorny defense."

His 1968 team finished third in the tournament. Two other times, Ohio State teams coached by Taylor were denied a spot in the NCAA tournament because the Big Ten allowed only one team to advance. The team with the most recent tournament appearance was eliminated.

Ohio State won its last Big Ten title under Taylor in 1971 and finished second in 1972.

Taylor was the coach during a 1972 game against Minnesota in which center Luke Witte was knocked to the floor and stomped by the Gophers' Corky Taylor and Ron Behagen. Other Buckeyes were chased from the floor, with objects thrown at them.

The Minnesota players were never disciplined. Taylor was bitter that the Big Ten did not take stronger action and his administration did not push for stiffer penalties.

"I just didn't have as much enthusiasm after 1972," he said.

Several of his former players--Don DeVoe, Jim Cleamons and Knight--later became successful coaches.

Knight and Havlicek presented Taylor for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986.

Taylor later worked as an NBC commentator and was an assistant coach on the 1979 U.S. basketball team that won the gold medal at the Pan American Games. He managed a golf club from 1979 until his illness in 1996.

In addition to his wife of 54 years, Eileen, Taylor is survived by four daughters, Janna Roewer, Krista Zimmerman, Nikki Kelley and Sharla Peponis, and 12 grandchildren.

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