Head Coach Debbie Taylor
The mentor of the William and Mary women’s basketball team since 1999-00, head coach Debbie Taylor has consistently proven herself as one of the best recruiters and developers of young talent in the Colonial Athletic Association. Entering the 2010-11 campaign, Taylor and her team are once again poised to excel – on the court, in the classroom, and beyond.
Under her direction, W&M has produced outstanding scholar-athletes who have shattered the Tribe record books and made their mark in the highly competitive CAA. In 2009-10 alone, a record-high five student-athletes were recognized at the conference awards banquet. In total, Taylor’s athletes have won 32 All-CAA awards including 10 all-rookie selections, one Player of the Year, two Defensive Players of the Year, and the CAA’s prestigious Dean Ehlers Leadership Award.
Taylor, a 1986 graduate of the College, is the fourth Tribe head coach since the program went to the Division I level in 1984. In 2009, she became the winningest coach in modern school history for both men’s and women’s basketball. Since the NCAA began its APR recognition program in 2003-04, the Tribe has been recognized with a perfect score of 1,000 three times, the highest total in the CAA and the state of Virginia and well above the per-school average of the ACC and peer academic schools such as Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Michigan, California, Stanford, and Northwestern. On the court, Taylor’s athletes and teams have set or tied 162 school records.
“William and Mary basketball is about unity, about family, about personal growth,” Taylor said. “It is the goal of the coaching staff to create an environment that provides an opportunity for our players to challenge themselves academically, athletically and personally. We want to build a national-caliber program with highly motivated student-athletes through which we can help reinforce and develop the skills necessary for their success after college.”
The 2009-10 honorees included sophomore Taysha Pye, who was named second-team All-CAA after scoring 493 points, the second-highest total in school history. Her year included scoring 10 or more in 26 of 30 games and nine games over 20 points, both figures that rank third in school history. Since early February of her freshman year, Pye has scored in double-digits in 36 of 41 games, with 14 of those games going for more than 20 and twice breaking the 30-point barrier.
Tiffany Benson ended her four years in the Green and Gold as the CAA’s all-time leading shot-blocker with 255 career blocks, and also reached the top of the W&M record books in offensive rebounds and games played. Under the tutelage of Taylor and her staff, she grew from simply a great defensive player into an all-around standout. Benson scored more than 1,000 points and pulled down over 1,000 rebounds in her career, one of just nine women in CAA history to accomplish the feat. She also led the CAA in offensive rebounding each of her final three years on campus. After graduating in May of 2010, Benson became the second W&M player in the past two years to sign a professional contract, joining Limoges ABC in France’s professional ranks.
Also earning all-conference honors in 2010 was freshman Emily Correal, who rode one of the strongest first years in school history to all-rookie honors. She ranked ninth in the CAA in both rebounds and blocks, and started a W&M freshman-record 29 games. Correal had three double-doubles in her rookie campaign and started her career with three-straight games with 10+ rebounds. Senior Robyn Barton capped her career with all-academic accolades, as did redshirt-junior Lindsey Moller.
In 2008-09, Tiffany Benson became the second W&M player to be named CAA Defensive Player of the Year after averaging a double-double with 12 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Taysha Pye averaged 19.1 points per game over the final third of the season, and was the runner-up in voting for CAA Rookie of the Year in addition to winning three CAA Rookie of the Week awards in the final five weeks of the season. Senior Dani Kell earned first-team all-academic honors from the CAA, and alongside classmate Courtney Portell, graduated having led W&M to a school-record number of wins in a four-year period.
The 2007-2008 campaign, the third-straight season with double digit wins, was the climax for two of the program’s greats, both of whom graduated with more than 1,000 career points.
One of the top players in the program’s history, Kyra Kaylor’s success throughout her career is a testament to Taylor’s ability to recruit and develop outstanding talent. Kaylor graduated as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,873) and rebounds (1,124), and also holds 11 other school records. Her career totals also made her one of just three women’s basketball players in conference history to total more than 1,800 points and 1,000 rebounds.
The 2005-06 CAA Player of the Year, Kaylor was named first-team all-conference each of her last three years, and was awarded the prestigious Dean Ehlers Leadership Award in 2008, the first for any Tribe player, male or female. The Dean Ehlers award, first presented following the 1994-95 season, is named in honor of a former James Madison athletics director, and is awarded each year to a male and female basketball player in the CAA who best exemplifies the highest standards of leadership, integrity, and sportsmanship both on and off the court.
Devin James also graduated in 2008 after surpassing the 1,000-point barrier. James finished her career with 1,348 points, the fifth-highest total in school history. In 2009, she signed a professional basketball contract with Kusg Leimen in Germany’s second-division women’s league.
In 2006-07, W&M won 19 games, the second-most in school history, and three members of the Tribe were recognized with all-conference honors. Highlighting the group was Kyra Kaylor as she was selected to the All-CAA first team for the second consecutive season. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native averaged 14.8 ppg and 9.1 rpg, while ranking among the league’s best in numerous categories.
Undoubtedly, the individual honors were impressive, but what the team accomplished collectively during the 2006-07 season was far more significant. Statistically, the Tribe established itself as one of the nation’s top defensive teams by limiting the opposition to just 35.5 percent shooting, a figure that ranked 13th in the country. Offensively, the squad was incredibly effective beyond the arc and ranked 23rd in three-pointers made per game (6.3) and 26th in three-point field goal percentage (36.0).
The success of 2006-07 built upon what was accomplished during the 2005-06 campaign. That edition of the Tribe earned the nation’s second-best turnaround (+11 wins) and registered the program’s best record at 15-13 since the 1998-99 season. Additionally, the Green and Gold’s 11 conference victories were a school record, besting the previous mark of nine. Taylor was honored as CAA Coach of the Year joining Kaylor who led the league in scoring and rebounding to become W&M’s first CAA Player of the Year.
Under Taylor’s leadership, guard Jen Sobota finished her career in 2003 as one of the top players in school history. Sobota graduated with nine school career records, including points scored with 1,511 and games played and started (113).
During her first season, Taylor implemented Team Tribe, a kids’ club that provides fan support for women’s basketball. In 11 years, Team Tribe has grown to more than 450 members.
According to Taylor, “Community support is vital to our team’s success. Team Tribe provides our players with an opportunity to interact with and act as role models for young people in the Williamsburg area.”
A former Tribe letter-winner in both basketball and lacrosse, Taylor arrived in Williamsburg on June 1,1999 after a stint in the Southeastern Conference as an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina and in the Big East at West Virginia University.
Upon graduation from William and Mary, Taylor accepted her first coaching position at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Va. During her six seasons at TES, she won two conference titles and led the Titans to the 1991 Virginia League of Independent Schools championship.
In 1992, Taylor was hired as the assistant boy’s varsity basketball coach at Goochland (Va.) High School. At that time she was one of only two females to coach boys’ basketball in the state. She was promoted to head coach the following year and in 1994 guided the Bulldogs to their best season in a decade.
Taylor also coached AAU basketball from 1988 to 1995, leading the James River Rapids (Richmond, Va.) to several national tournaments and the 1995 Virginia state championship.
At William and Mary, Taylor earned a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and was a two-year team captain for the basketball team. She graduated as the College’s all-time leader in career assists and steals, and still ranks among the Tribe’s leaders in nine different categories. She was also a standout lacrosse player from 1984-86, and still appears several times in the Tribe record book.
Taylor, who resides in Williamsburg, enjoys boating, reading, playing the piano, and visiting with her family in her spare time. She has four sisters: Laurie, Kathy, Pam and Jennifer; four nieces: Kaitlyn (23), Olivia (10), Alexis (7) and Eden (5); and two nephews: Kenny (20) and Roman (10). She is the daughter of Ed and Ruth Taylor of Fredericksburg, Virginia.