When he took the post as Cuyahoga Falls athletic director, Kenny Johnson knew his first coaching hire would be to replace his old position as boys basketball coach.
“I know this was my first hire, but honestly, it will be one of my hardest hires, because I put so much into the program,” Johnson said. “This was a hire I took very seriously.”
Johnson said he will recommend long-time Green assistant coach Todd Taylor to be Falls' next head boys basketball coach. Taylor’s position is expected to be confirmed at the next Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education meet on Oct. 16.
Taylor comes to Falls with nearly 30 years of basketball coaching experience, which began in 1991 in the Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball program under coach Tom Jones.
“It’s really good to be back,” Taylor said. “It’s like coming back home. It’s been a pleasure reconnecting with student-athletes in Falls. The biggest thrill for me is to be able to coach on the court with Tom Jones’ name on it. Tom Jones meant a great deal to me as a coach, but more importantly as a person.”
A 1986 graduate of Tallmadge High School, Taylor works as a salesperson for Hillyard Inc, a custodial supplies company.
Taylor has spent the bulk of his time as an assistant coach in the Green High School program, including a varsity assistant during the 2018-19 season. Taylor also has had stints at Lake and Southeast as head coach, leading the Pirates from 2016-18.
Taylor said not being a teacher has played a role in his primarily assistant coaching career. “Maybe some of my positions were not as flexible,” he said. “Now, since I’ve been with this company for about seven years, my schedule is more flexible.”
Johnson noted Taylor beat out a field of about 20 applicants for the job, eight of which were interviewed.
“Todd stood out in his interview process just with his experience as a coach,” Johnson said. “He just brought a very calm demeanor to the interview process. He knew a bit about what Cuyahoga Falls is like and the tradition we have here.”
Taylor will take over a Falls team in the rebuilding process, as the Black Tigers went 2-21 last year while fielding a very young team.
Taylor said his big focus will be building Falls’ basketball from the youth level up.
“I firmly believe that we want to build up the youth program,” Taylor said. “Dan Freeman has been running our youth program the last few years. We’ve got great numbers. That’s where you’re going to start. All those years at Green, we had a great youth program to work with.”
Johnson also noted Taylor is “a people person” who will bring a “hard nose style to Falls.”
“Coach Taylor is a defensive mind,” Johnson said. ‘That should be something that helps our program as well.
“Not everybody can shoot a basketball well but everybody can play great defense,” Taylor said. “If you’re playing the man-to-man defense like you’re taught, there’s no need to switch to zone. I don’t like to go to zone, because it hurts rebounding.
“[Offensively] it’s going to be dictated by who you have,” Taylor added. “We do have some boys to shoot the ball. We’ll run some motion offense.
Johnson said the rest of the coaching staff will remain intact for the 2019-20 season. He praised varsity assistant coach Derek Widduck, junior varsity coach Brent Hovey and freshman coach Nick Greenwell for keeping the program going during the coaching search.
“I just want to see a guy that cares about the kids as much as me and my staff cared about the kids,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, he will give them a chance to succeed on and off the floor.”
Taylor said he knows the Suburban League National Conference will be a challenge. He also is aware what rival Stow-Munroe Falls brings to the table.
“Being at Green, we played Stow every year, often as our first game,” Taylor said. “I have a lot of respect for [Stow coach] Dave Close and what he does. I’m not going to promise wins, but we’re going to have a physically and mentally tough team that competes every night.”
Falls is scheduled to open the 2019-20 season at North Royalton Dec. 6.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO