Schuckman: High fives and hugs for Taylor punctuate Moline’s run to Class 4A final four


Moline boys basketball coach Sean Taylor, who spent 11 seasons coaching at Quincy High School, will coach the Maroons in the Class 4A final four this weekend in Champaign, Ill. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The high five was perfectly unscripted and unabashedly enthusiastic.

The hug and the fist bump were, too.

As the Moline boys basketball team soaked in the moment Monday night — the Maroons had just beaten Oswego East 59-55 to win the Class 4A Normal Super-Sectional and advance to the state final four for the first time in 72 years — Maroons coach Sean Taylor darted away from the picture-taking and celebrating.

He ducked behind press row and first found his son, Kyle, who greeted the Hall of Fame coach with an emphatic high five. Kyle, a freshman at Monmouth College, played for his father at Moline and had been a part of teams that built the Maroons for this moment.

Next, Taylor spotted his wife, Lisa, coming down the aisle and they embraced at the railing. He gave his youngest son, Corey, a fist bump, shook hands with a few fans and rejoined his team on the Redbird Arena floor with no one in a hurry to leave.

Eventually, they left the arena and carried the celebration to the locker room, where the Maroons dumped an entire Gatorade cooler of ice water on Taylor as the 55-year-old coach bounced around like a teenager.

Once the Maroons boarded their bus and headed back to the Quad Cities, Taylor took a moment to breathe and appreciate what had happened.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s special.”

It’s retribution as well.

Nine years ago, despite a winning percentage of .644 with four Western Big 6 Conference championships and five regional titles in 11 seasons as the head coach at Quincy High School, Taylor was fired. The reason? It was never shared publicly.

“We have decided to move in a different direction with the Quincy High School Blue Devil varsity boys basketball,” former Quincy School Board president Stephanie Erwin said in a prepared statement at the time.

Despite the “it’s a personnel matter” cloaking, everyone knew why. Taylor didn’t win enough to appease those trapped in 1981.

“Disappointment” was his one-word reaction at the time.

The wounds went deeper. The firing hurt. It still does in many ways. The Taylors built their family in Quincy and created friendships that are as strong today as they were then.

But what Taylor did in that moment is what a coach teaches his players to do when hit with adversity. He picked himself up, dusted himself off and came back with a vengeance, which has resulted in a string of successful seasons.

After two seasons at Jacksonville, one of which was a 20-win campaign, Taylor has spent the past seven seasons at Moline with a .762 winning percentage, five 20-win seasons and now a state final four appearance. This team’s 33 victories are the most in program history.

Along the way, he’s reminded those in Quincy who didn’t think he won enough just how successful he can be, going 11-3 against the Blue Devils.

Quincy is enjoying its own success, having flourished the past two seasons with a super-sectional appearance and a pair of 20-win seasons. In Andy Douglas’ nine seasons at the helm, the Blue Devils own a .687 winning percentage, four WB6 titles and three regional crowns. With talented underclassmen, more success lies ahead.

It does for Taylor, too.

His track record guarantees it. In 33 seasons as a head coach, his teams have won 20 or more games 17 times, and he’s won 624 career games with a winning percentage of .699. Two victories this weekend would boost that percentage to .700 and capture the second state championship of his career.

If that doesn’t happen, so be it. The Maroons are making history regardless, and no one can ever say Taylor doesn’t win enough ever again.

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