Sometimes you win, sometimes you achieve greatness, but hardly ever do you get a chance to make history.
Vanessa Taylor, head women’s basketball coach at Johnson C. Smith University, accomplished all three last week when her team won the 2009 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Women’s Basketball Championship — the first ever for the school.
“I’m just so overjoyed and elated for the University, our program, my team and the city of Charlotte,” she said after the Lady Golden Bulls defeated Bowie State University 49-36. (Later that night, the JCSU men would claim their second straight CIAA crown with a 70-63 win over Virginia Union University.)
Taylor had come close before during her eight years at JCSU, advancing to the CIAA championship game in 2003, 2006 and 2008.
Her career record in Charlotte is an impressive 149-89, with this season’s team heading for the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament.
She produced seven all-conference student-athletes during her time at JCSU, including two this season. She won her first western division title in 2005-06 and led her team to the CIAA Championship game for only the third time in school history.
“It’s been a blessing to work with such great people,” she said. “I’ve had some great experiences, and the thought that our team has made history seems unbelievable.”
In addition to this year’s CIAA championship, Taylor is one win shy of her 150th coaching victory at JCSU. She is only the second woman coach this decade to win the CIAA title. Peggy Davis did it in 2002 at Virginia State University, and no woman coach won the CIAA title in the 1990s.
Prior to coming to JCSU, Taylor was the top women’s assistant coach at Hampton University, helping lead the Lady Pirates to a 1994 CIAA Tournament Championship and a regional playoff appearance.
In her first college head coaching job, she compiled an 83-95 record over seven years at Elizabeth City State University. Her Lady Vikings won the CIAA Eastern Division Championship and regular-season title in 2000 and 2001. She was selected CIAA Coach of the Year in 1997 and 1999, when her teams posted records of 15-13 and 21-6, respectively.
Taylor is the daughter of Joe Van Taylor and the late Mattie Taylor, a former high school coach for 30-plus years, whom she credits with teaching her everything she has learned. A native of Moultrie, GA, Taylor holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Tuskegee University. She played with the Golden Tigers from 1988 through 1991.
On Sunday, Taylor and the Lady Golden Bulls will learn who their first-round opponent will be in the NCAA tournament.
Lamont M. Hinson is director of sports information at Johnson C. Smith University.