Following a thorough search of the women's basketball community, Greg McGarity, the UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics, and Dr. Carla Williams, UGA's Deputy Director of Athletics, realized that the best choice to become the Georgia Lady Bulldogs' next head coach was approximately 300 yards from their offices.
On Sunday, April 12, Joni (Crenshaw) Taylor, a member of the Georgia Basketball Staff for the past four seasons, including the last three as associate head coach, was appointed just the second full-time head coach in the program's illustrious history.
"After a national search, it became evident that Joni was the perfect person to lead our program," McGarity said. "Joni brings the intangibles that parallel success -- character, experience and a tireless energy to lead our program. We are confident she will do a tremendous job leading Georgia Basketball into the future."
"I am extremely honored to be the next coach at Georgia," Taylor said. "I want to thank President Morehead, Greg and Carla for trusting me with the program. I have been fortunate to have learned under a great coaching tree and have great mentors along the way. I want to thank Coach Landers for all that he has done for me since I have been under his tutelage. The trust and responsibility he gave me definitely prepared me for the next step in my career but more importantly his friendship means the world to me."
Taylor sports 13 seasons of coaching experience at the Division I level, the last seven within the Southeastern Conference. The Meridian, Miss., native joined the Georgia staff in 2011 and spent one season as an assistant coach before being promoted to associate head coach. Prior to arriving in Athens, Taylor coached at LSU from 2010-11, at Alabama from 2008-10, at Louisiana Tech from 2005-08 and at Troy from 2002-05.
During each of those coaching stops, Taylor has displayed the ability to both sign premier prospects and then help those recruits develop into highly successful players.
In the Lady Bulldogs' four signing classes since Taylor arrival, Georgia's 16 scholarship newcomers arrived on campus with a combined 18 high school state titles. That group also featured seven standouts ranked among the nation's top 100 prospects and included a quartet of state Player of the Year honorees.
Taylor helped Alabama and LSU land top-5 individual prospects in the classes of 2010 and 2011, respectively, and also spearheaded the Crimson Tide's recruiting class for 2010 that ranked among the nation's top 10. She helped Lousiana Tech ink the 2006 Miss Basketball for both Alabama and Mississippi and Troy sign two future Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year honorees.
Taylor succeeds Andy Landers, the only previous full-time women's basketball coach in the program's history. Landers announced his retirement on Monday, March 16 after 36 seasons. Landers compiled a 862-299 record at Georgia, making him one of only seven college basketball coaches -- women's or men's -- to record 850 wins at a single NCAA Division I school. The other coaches on that list are Pat Summitt (Tennessee), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), Dean Smith (North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (Kentucky). Landers compiled a career record of 944-320 in 40 seasons as a collegiate head coach, including an 82-21 record in four years at Roane State College from 1975-79.
"Georgia Basketball is in great hands," Landers said. "Coach Taylor is a person who has deep-rooted values and morals, which are two of the cornerstones of Georgia Basketball's success. Her appreciation for the total development of young women is second to none and her past experiences have prepared her for the challenges ahead. I am confident she will do extremely well. Joni has an excellent basketball IQ, is a tremendous recruiter and is a terrific people person, but above all else, she is someone who young people will aspire to play for and enjoy that same experience."
Taylor herself was a highly sought after basketball prospect. She was the 1997 Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi after leading Meridian High to a 67-7 record during her junior and senior seasons. She also won three state titles in track and field and was selected as the school's Homecoming Queen.
At Alabama, Taylor was a significant contributor to four teams that reached post-season play -- the 1998 and 1999 NCAA Tournaments and the 2000 and 2001 WNITs. She was a two-year starter and scored 716 points, grabbed 555 rebounds and blocked 103 shots, which is No. 4 among the Tide's career leaders.
Taylor also was a standout off the basketball court. She was recognized as one of the most influential African Americans on the Alabama campus in 2001, was named to the SEC's Community Service team for women's basketball in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and was awarded a post-graduate scholarship from the SEC for her community service record. She received her bachelor's degree in Education from Alabama in 2002.
Taylor is married to Darius Taylor, an assistant coach for the South Carolina women's basketball team.