CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Mike Taylor once walked away from coaching.
He went halfway across the country to work in media sales in Pittsburgh. The idea of a regular life away from gyms, whistles and long bus trips complemented the chance to make more money.
Or it seemed.
Taylor, who grew up in Rantoul and coached there as well as Tolono Unity, missed the "glamorous" life of coaching. When an opportunity opened at the now-defunct St. Joseph's High School in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood, Taylor high-tailed it back.
"Coaching, teaching is in my blood," Taylor said. "I applied all over to get back into coaching and Chicago was the place.
"My dad (Richard) was a teacher, coach and administrator in Rantoul. My brother, Sean, and sister, Erin (Remington), are teachers. I had to get back in. I missed it."
Sean is the boys basketball coach at Quincy High School. The brothers have played each other twice.
While Marian is not as storied of a program as Quincy, Taylor's Spartans beat the Blue Devils this year and just about everybody else they faced as Marian set a program record with 29 wins. The Spartans (29-4) notched school firsts with a sectional title and a McDipper championship. This was with a tough schedule and a team that had three starters under 6-foot.
For his outstanding coaching effort, Taylor is The Times Coach of the Year.
Five of the team's top six players were juniors, but they stepped up said Taylor.
"That's where the credit goes -- to those guys for hustling and playing as a team," Taylor said. "I said, 'We may be short, but not on talent or heart.' These guys are close off the court, and another thing I am proud of is we were good in the classroom. Four guys had 3.3 GPAs or better."
Taylor got high grades from his players. Junior Josh Cohn said Taylor is a stand-up person.
"Coach is a very genuine person who is hard-working," Cohn said. "He pushed us to get better and all he really asked is that we give 100 percent on the floor. He told us he had confidence in us and we just needed to play hard and smart.
"He was a big reason we did what we did this year."
When Taylor returned to Illinois, he coached at St. Joseph's, which closed, then he taught at Kelvyn Park on the northwest side and was an assistant football coach. He also coached at St. Benedict's, then he was the head coach at Hales Franciscan, going 66-50 in four years and advancing to a Class A super-sectional in 2002.
Taylor came to Marian in 2003-04 when the program was not known as a basketball power in the talent-rich south suburbs. He went 9-17 his first year before producing five winning seasons since then. He has also won three of the program's four regional titles
"We struggled some of those years, but Dave (Mattio) and the administration have always supported me," Taylor said. "We play as tough of a schedule this year as we have in the past. This year, we had the kids and of course, you have a special player like Tyler (Ulis, the Times Player of the Year). "
Mattio said Taylor has been an asset to the school. Taylor served as Mattio's offensive coordinator.
"Mike is very loyal to his kids and to the programs he is involved with whether it be a psort, as an (assistant) athletic director or in fundraising," Mattio said. "As a coach, he is a competitor and he challenges young athletes to do the things that he wants them to do."
Taylor also credits his assistants Kevin Kelly, Joe Barker, Bob Novak, Nick Novak and Jim Mendenhall for the success.
"These guys put in a lot of work and are unselfish," Taylor said. "They love the game and love what they are doing. They really make me look good."