Delta Soror continues legacy as new Georgia women’s basketball coach
As weird as it was seeing Andy Landers not coach, it was equally great watching Joni Taylor do her thing in Stegeman Coliseum on Sunday.
The Lady Bulldogs started a new era proper, beating Stetson 76-55 in a show that included Atlanta rapper Silento bringing fans to the court at the half to Whip and Nae Nae (dance moves that get the people going).
The Georgia women’s basketball program now has 900 victories. 862 by Landers, who retired in March. One for Taylor, who spent decades working to ready for the moment.
“I’ve dreamed about this for a very long time,” Taylor said.
Landers (of course) was in the building — watching from Seat 3 in section T. People came by to speak as he balanced watching the action, catching up with friends and taking pictures with fans.
“We miss you already,” a little girl said after Landers smiled and posed.
“This is fun,” he said later. “There’s no pressure.”
Transition amid tradition is weird, but Georgia ensured it would be OK by hiring Taylor. Everybody misses Andy and everybody is happy to see Joni. Georgia lost a lot when Landers called it a career, but also gained immensely when Taylor took over.
“It was like a good different,” as sophomore forward Mackenzie Engram summed it up.
Landers has forgotten more about basketball than us normals will ever know. Taylor knows her stuff, too, but she proved she’s in touch when she attempted the Whip and Nae Nae during Silento’s encore after the game. Taylor graded her dance moves as an F, but that wasn’t the point.
“She was out there embarrassing herself for us,” senior Shacobia Barbee said.
That’s what Taylor does. She endears herself. That’s part of her process to make you believe.
That’s what leads to winning.
“Her focus and her drive make us believe in ourselves because she believes in us as much as she believes in herself,” Barbee said. “She knows what she wants.”
Taylor knows how to get what she wants, too. Her successes follow her everywhere she goes.
More than 50 sisters of her University of Alabama sorority — Delta Sigma Theta — showed up Sunday wearing shirts that read: We Love Joni.
“Didn’t know they were coming, so totally a surprise,” she said. “To look over there and see them speaks to the sisterhood we have.”
Moves like that speak to Taylor’s ability to win — she puts points on the scoreboard of life.
“Y’all got a good one,” sorority sister Shamekia Taylor said. “This is exactly where she belongs.”
Taylor is a powerful, young black woman in our community. She’s using that status to help as many people as she can while also working to win games and recruit great players.
That’s why Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity and deputy director of athletics Carla Williams (also an important black woman in our community), already with Landers’ endorsement in mind, hired Taylor after she served as his assistant for four seasons.
“She was able to see the whole picture and was able to describe what that picture looked like,” McGarity said.
The whole picture includes Taylor’s reach, her status, her ability to help in numerous realms.
The Delta Sigma Thetas came with $650 to give to Taylor’s outreach initiative Beyond Basketball.
It’s a group of females that meet for breakfast the second Wednesday of every month. They have speakers and bounce topics and network and share ideas.
“It’s a chance to get together once a month and share and get inspired and go back and be the great leaders that we are as women,” Taylor said.
Taylor is passionate about education, teaching kids to respect authority and community outreach.
“Having her as our coach will be very helpful in spreading those qualities throughout the community,” Williams said. “That’s something I want my three children to feel like is important.”
Landers got up and put his coat on after a whistle with 47.7 seconds left in Sunday’s game. He watched Taylor carry on what he started, all according to his plan.
“He felt like she was somebody ready to step in those big shoes,” Williams said.
And like Landers did so many times before, Taylor gave full credit to her players during post-game comments.
“It’s their game,” Taylor said.
She’s showing us all how to play it the right way.