Rocklin's Taylor resigns as basketball coach

By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Steve Taylor resigned as Rocklin High’s varsity boys basketball coach today. Taylor, who started the Thunder program when the school opened in 1993, informed his players today that he was retiring as coach. Taylor, 47, sent out an email at about 4 p.m. today announcing his decision. He spoke with The Placer Herald by phone. “This was not something that was easy for me to do after coaching high school basketball for 24 years,” Taylor said. “I am simply tired and burned out from what feels like a 12-month a year job. The time commitment and the pressures associated with the job have taken a toll on me physically, mentally, and on my relationship with my family.” Taylor coached high school basketball in Fresno for seven years prior to coaching at Rocklin. “I have come to realize that I can never get back the time that I am missing away from my wife and kids (Nick age 13, Ashley age 10),” Taylor said. “There have been a number of things that have happened over the past few years that have reminded me of that and made this decision something I just need to do. I have struggled with this decision for three years but I finally feel it is the right time to step away.” Taylor’s program at Rocklin has been very successful and the Thunder have reached the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division II semifinals at Arco Arena for the last five seasons. Rocklin has gone 135-26 over those five years and claimed DII section titles in 2007-08 and 2008-09. The Thunder also reached the DII state championship game in 2008-09. Rocklin’s 2008-09 season included perfect records in the Sierra Foothill League (12-0) and at home (14-0). That season took a heavy toll on Taylor. He often thinks back to the loss to Eisenhower in the state championship game. “It’s tough to get over the loss – there is still that disappointment,” Taylor said. “I think it will always be there. It was a missed opportunity for us. “The more success we’ve had the more I feel like there is pressure to continue that success. And the expectations have been set and you have to live up to those. And the year we got to the state finals it took a lot out of me. And I wasn’t sure I would be able to refuel the jets (for the following season) – there is not very much time and you get started right away in the spring (for the following season).” Rocklin went 22-10 this season and graduates a talented group that includes Cody Kale, Tony Williams, Alika Lemon, Jackson Cummings and Justin Soria. That was the starting lineup down the stretch for many of Rocklin’s key games. “I kind of felt it was probably the right time (to resign),” Taylor said. “The senior class, and in particular Jackson because he’d been there (on the varsity) for four years, I wanted to make sure I was coaching their senior years . . . It’s the senior class that I feel like I was really close with. We’ve had a great run and it’s almost like (to stay as the coach) I have to really buckle up the boot straps and really get after it . . . And I don’t feel like I really have the energy.” Coaching has drained Taylor is recent years. “From a physical and mental stand point, in recent years I have been unable to feel rested and rejuvenated after one season ends and another one begins right away,” said Taylor, who will still be a physical education instructor at Rocklin. “I just feel mentally and physically tired all of the time. This has affected my ability to have fun and enjoy working with our players as much as I have in the past. I have always told myself when I quit having fun I need to step away and it just hasn’t been as much fun as it should have been with all of the success we have had in recent years.” Taylor says that he may coach basketball again in the future. “In a perfect world, I could take a year or two off and recharge my jets but I can’t quite say what the future will bring,” Taylor said. “I can definitely see myself getting back into coaching basketball at some point in the future but only time will tell. I have no other job offers at the high school or college level (which had been rumored). I simply want to focus on being a better husband, dad, and teacher and not have the responsibility, workload, and pressure of being the head coach at RHS.” Rocklin’s record under Taylor was 319-144 and 130-64 in the SFL. The Thunder, who first competed at the varsity level (with juniors only) in 1995-96, reached the playoffs 13 times. The only seasons Rocklin missed the playoffs were 1995-96 (7-21 record) and 2003-04 (16-12). Taylor coached the Thunder to five SFL championships (2000-01, 2001-02, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2008-09) and three section titles (2000-01, 2007-08, 2008-09). Rocklin has appeared in the section semifinals eight times. Taylor was the Cal Hi Sports Division II State Coach of the Year in 2007-08. He was the Sac Bee's coach of the year the same season. He points to 2000-01 and 1997-98 when he thinks about which seasons at Rocklin were the most fun. “That section championship in 2001, it’s one of the highlights because it was our first one and maybe one of our best accomplishments we’ve ever had,” Taylor said. “And our second year with seniors, 1997-98, and we got to the section finals . . . that was pretty neat. And the state finals – if you had asked me in 1993 if we would be playing in the state finals I would say that it is really doubtful. A public school and in our community, we didn’t know how big (Rocklin) would get.” Taylor started his coaching career at Clovis West in Fresno in 1986 (freshman coach) before coaching the junior varsity (1987-88) and serving as an assistant on the varsity (1989) at the same school. He was the head coach at Fresno High from 1990-93, going 10-16, 16-10 and 18-8. He then took the coaching job in Rocklin, where he grew up. He attended Roseville High because Rocklin didn’t have a high school back then. “My parents were still there and I knew the high school job was opening up and I wanted to come back to this area eventually,” Taylor said. Taylor starred at Roseville High and led the Tigers to a NorCal title in 1980 under coach Paul Gonzalez. There was no state championship for basketball in California at the time. Taylor, as a shooting guard, then played two years of basketball at Sierra College before playing on scholarship at Fresno Pacific University. Taylor isn’t sure what involvement he will have with the Rocklin program in the immediate future. “It just depends on what happens – I really feel like I need to completely step away,” Taylor said. “If not I will never know if there is something else out there.” One of those things could be a master's degree. “I have opportunities to do things different in basketball but I don’t have my master's degree,” Taylor said. “There are opportunities at junior college and other things like that. Within two years I want to have my master's degree and if a junior college job comes up then you have a chance.” Taylor struggled with having to miss his son’s basketball games this season. “My son is a seventh grader and my daughter is a fifth grader and these next three or four years in their development is really important,” Taylor said. “And I had to miss some of my son’s basketball games to go to my games and my practices and I’m saying to myself 'I would love to sit here and watch the game and support my kid.'” And that’s good enough for now. He’d rather just be a fan than a coach.