Coach Joni Taylor leaves Georgia basketball behind for Texas A&M

Georgia coach Joni Taylor was unable to get the Lady Bulldogs into the Sweet 16, falling to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday night in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.
LUKE LU

ATHENS — Georgia women’s basketball will be looking for a new coach with Joni Taylor making a surprise move to take the Texas A&M head coaching job.

Taylor’s move comes three days after the Lady Bulldogs were bounced from the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament by Iowa State by a 67-44 count in the Round of 32.

The Lady Bulldogs (21-10) fell behind 11-0 from the opening tip and were not competitive for the remainder of the game, trailing by double digits from the second quarter onward.

RELATED: Georgia women’s basketball can’t adjust to Iowa State zone, eliminated

The 43-year-old Taylor had mixed results as the head coach at Georgia over the past seven years, winning 2021 SEC Coach of the Year honors after the Lady Bulldogs had dipped to ninth in the league in 2020 with a 7-9 conference mark.

Taylor’s inability to get Georgia past the Round of 32 her seven years as head coach had created a buzz, as the Lady Bulldogs ranked as one of the most successful programs in the nation under the direction of her successor, Coach Andy Landers.

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, whose team made the Sweet 16 for the first time in 22 years, commented on the pressure that comes with following a Hall of Famer like Landers.

“When you follow a hall of fame coach,” Fennelly said, “that’s got to be miserable.”

Indeed, the Georgia women’s basketball program has made 20 previous trips to the Sweet 16 — a mark bettered only by Tennessee, UConn and Stanford.

But none of those trips came since Landers was head coach (2013).

Taylor sounded confident in the aftermath of the loss to Iowa State that she could get the Georgia program back to where it was before she took over.

“It’s devastating that we haven’t done it already,” Taylor said. “You come to Georgia not to make the NCAA tournament, but to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.”

The University of Georgia invested heavily in Taylor, as she had spent four years as an assistant to Landers before getting the job and was viewed as the Lady Bulldogs Coach of the Future.

Despite Taylor’s lack of success in the NCAA tourney, she was still a popular and beloved figure on campus.

Brooks indicated as much in his statement.

“I want to personally thank Joni for being a great ambassador at the University of Georgia,” Brooks said. “From her Beyond Basketball group and involvement in many community organizations to her team’s successes on the court, her impact left a lasting impression on this program.

“We are forever grateful for the outstanding example of grace and humility she set for so many young women. I know these decisions are never easy, but we wish her, Darius, Jacie and Drew all the best on this new adventure.”

Brooks recently replaced men’s basketball coach Tom Crean, who was fired after four years.

Georgia hired coach Mike White, who coincidentally enough, had previously replaced a legend at Florida in Billy Donovan.

White made four NCAA tournaments and got the Gators to the Elite Eight within his seven years coaching the Florida program.

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