Taylor comments on everything from a possible extension for head basketball coach Bruce Weber to the state of the Big 12 to addressing the current situation at the University of Iowa.
Newly hired K-State Athletics Director Gene Taylor was in Dodge City on Monday on the first stop of the K-State Catbacker tour. Afterwards the Globe caught up with him to discuss a variety of topics in an exclusive interview.
How do you feel you’ve settled over the past month since you were introduced as athletics director? I’m sure it’s been fairly busy and hectic for you.
Taylor: You know, it has been. Last week was really my first full week in the office. I started the week before that but I left for Phoenix on Wednesday for the Big 12 meetings so that was a short week. But I'm getting settled in, I’m meeting staff. I’ve met most of the head coaches and I have a couple more head coaches to go. I’ve visited with the senior staff. I’m just really asking questions and figuring out what direction we want to go in. It’s been good.
In this part of the state you have a fairly nice mix of K-State and KU fans but also a pretty nice contingent of Wichita State fans. With WSU’s move to the American Athletic Conference coming up, would scheduling them in basketball be something that could happen in the near future?
Taylor: Those things are the type of things I need to talk to coach Weber about and just get his sense. I don’t think coaches are concerned about playing anybody really. In our initial conversation we didn’t get deep into scheduling. We went over the next few years and honestly I didn’t even think about the Wichita State question when I sat down with him because it hadn’t been posed to me but there has been a couple of people since then who have asked that question.
In my opinion, I don’t think it really matters what conference they’re in, it’s just a matter of does it make sense for us to play them as a resume booster. They’re good and when playing a good non-conference team you have to decide whether to do it at a neutral site or home-and-home and I don’t think Bruce is necessarily opposed to that but we just haven’t had a lot of time to chat about the specifics. I need to learn more about the whys and what fors as to why we haven’t done that before I make a major call on that.
What would you say your scheduling philosophy is in general?
Taylor: I think you’ll find with me that I rely a lot on coaches with what they want to do scheduling-wise. I’ll certainly give my opinion and expectations but if a coach is really adamant about doing something or not doing something I’ll normally listen to them unless there’s not really a valid reason for that. Those are the things we’ll talk through as we get to know each other more. I will leave it up to them as much as I can. Their goals are the same as mine... I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to tell a coach to play a certain team and I don’t anticipate that will be the case here.
There’s been a lot of national speculation concerning head football coach Bill Snyder and his successor whether it be (his son and associate head coach and special teams coordinator) Sean Snyder or someone else. I’m not going to ask you to speculate on that but what would you say your criteria is when looking for a head coach?
Taylor: I look at the sports a little bit differently in terms of their culture and what their needs are at the time. I’ll give you example: When I hired Craig Bohl when we moved from Division Two to Division One I was really looking for someone who had experience with Division One and had been around programs that had built from a not-successful team to a successful team. When Craig left, he left a pretty strong culture of success so that next coach had to understand what they were walking into. Three-time national champion, replacing a fairly successful coach, were they willing to step into that.
Beyond that I look to see if they’re good teachers, how do they treat their kids? Are they good leaders? Obviously they know their X’s and O’s and need to be able ot recruit but those are kind of givens but overall it’s about understanding the culture in which they’re coming in to coach. Does it make sense and are they a fit? It just really depends on the situation.
Can you comment on former deputy athletic director Laird Veatch’s status under your administration and whether you’d like for him to stay on in his current capacity? (UPDATE: Since the interview Monday night, it was announced that Veatch has taken the Executive Associate AD for Internal Affairs position at the University of Florida.)
Taylor: Laird and I have talked and I want him to stay, I hope he stays. He’s very talented, I’ll be honest with you. I not only have noticed that but if there’s been one consistent message I’ve gotten from a lot, and I’m talking a lot, of people from across the country is that he’s a great guy… Nothing that I’ve encountered since I’ve been here has changed that opinion and I’m sure his phone is ringing and I hope he stays but if he doesn’t, it’s because of his talent and opportunities not because it’s something I don’t want or he doesn’t want. I would think he would want to stay and work with me but you just don’t know. Stay tuned on that one.
Can you address a possible contract extension for head basketball coach Bruce Weber that was alluded to in your introductory press conference?
Taylor: I think President Myers was talking in general and someone asked the question and his answer was, “Certainly an extension will be up to the AD,” and it came out like there was going to be an extension and that’s not how he meant it. What he meant was, “I’ve hired the guy, he needs to work that out,” and that’s on my plate.
It’s certainly something as I go through the process of meeting with staff and meeting with coach Weber and meet with his assistants, I’m going to meet with every staff member we have, assistant coaches, coaches, once I get through all that and talk to some other folks I’ll go back to Bruce and find out what he’s looking for and what his goals and expectations are.The first meeting I had was more general. I’ll meet with him again and go from there.
What’s best for our basketball program? I like Bruce and here’s what I’ll say: everyone I’ve talked to in the world of college basketball that I have a great deal of respect for, that are very successful coaches say there’s a common theme. Bruce is a great individual, a great person, he’s a really good basketball coach and he does things the right way and AD’s love to have someone like that. He’s been to the NCAA tournament in three of the past five years and won a Big 12 championship. There are a lot of AD’s who’d like to have that resume for their basketball coach. But I need to figure out what’s best for our program and that’s what I'll do.
Last week, a report came out from the Associated Press concerning an audit that took place at the University of Iowa, your former employer. The report mentioned your name a couple times a not a lot else has come out concerning the report. Do you have a comment on any part of the report?
Taylor: I wish I could. I’ve been asked by the University of Iowa and the Iowa Athletic Department to hold comments because lawyers are still talking. I’ve got to hold on that right now but there will come a time that I will really enjoy getting the opportunity to expound on that particular subject but right now I just can’t. But there will come a time that I will get to clear some things up, I just can’t right now.
You said you did your research on K-State and that you’ve had your eye on K-State for a while, the next four to five years are going to be important long term for the conference and the university. You just got back from Big 12 meetings, what would you like to see happen that benefits long-term success for K-State and the Big 12?
Taylor: I visited with (Big 12 commissioner) Bob Bowlsby, who I got to know a little bit while I was in Iowa City because of his connection in Iowa and I have a great deal of respect for him. I think has been and will be a great commissioner. I think the Big 12 is starting to figure out that we’re stronger as a unit than we are as individual institutions. I get the sense that’s the case. Again, I’ve only been to one meeting so it’s possibly too early to judge.
I think Bob’s leadership is going to position the Big 12 collectively as a strong conference. I have nothing but positive vibes with where we’re at right now. The bigger thing is what will the state of college athletics be in the next five to six years. We just need to position ourselves, institutionally, to be the best we can be. If things start shifting around us in the next five to six years we need to be able to be ready to make a move collectively or individually if we have to. I don’t see that happening but it’s just really hard to predict where college athletics is going in the next five to 10 years. For the next five years I feel like it’s going to be pretty stable to be honest with you. With television contracts right now everyone is pretty stable. After that though, we’ll see.