Iowa basketball: Fran McCaffery adds familiar face to fill assistant-coach vacancy

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Ultimately, Fran McCaffery settled on familiarity, experience and trust as he went about filling the first assistant-coach vacancy on his Iowa basketball staff in nine years.

Billy Taylor, who has played for and coached with McCaffery and has 11 years of experience as a Division I head coach, been hired to replace Andrew Francis as one of the Hawkeyes' three core assistants.

Taylor spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Belmont Abbey, a Division II program in Belmont, North Carolina. He was once McCaffery's top assistant at UNC-Greensboro and later served as the head coach at Lehigh for five years (2003 to 2007) and Ball State for six (2008 to 2013). He spent three years as Iowa's director of operations (2014 to 2016) before heading to Belmont Abbey, where he most recently led the Crusaders to a 23-8 record.

It's a strong, sensible hire.

Billy Taylor, left, talks with Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery before a Nov. 2, 2017, exhibition game in Iowa City. Taylor, who was then the head coach at Belmont Abbey, is the newest Hawkeye assistant coach.

“We are excited that Billy Taylor is rejoining the Hawkeye basketball family,” McCaffery said in a statement. “Billy is the perfect fit for our team. He knows our program well, and has a wealth of coaching and recruiting experience. Billy is one of the most genuine and respected coaches in our profession."

In an interview with the Des Moines Register last week, McCaffery outlined his desire to find a well-rounded coach to replace Francis, who took an assistant-coaching position California after nine years on the Hawkeyes' bench.

He preferred that approach, rather than hiring a defensive specialist after Iowa finished last in the Big Ten Conference in adjusted defensive efficiency for the second straight season.

"I look for somebody who’s good in every area," McCaffery had said. "You’ve got to be able to coach as it relates to breaking teams down. Scouting. Relationships with players. Relationships in recruiting. To be able to speak to alumni groups. You’ve got to be able to do it all. The reason for that is, I’m not able to be in this office every day. Whatever comes through that door, any one of my guys has to be able to handle it."

Taylor will need to hit the ground running, especially on the recruiting trail.

The Hawkeyes are in the market for a lot of players, perhaps including a graduate transfer for the 2019-20 after Tuesday's bombshell that point guard Jordan Bohannon could miss the season following hip surgery. Iowa has two open scholarships and has yet to land a commitment in its Class of 2020.

It's not recruiting panic time, but there's definite urgency.

“I am humbled and honored to rejoin Coach McCaffery’s staff at the University of Iowa,” said Taylor, who played for Notre Dame (1992 to 1995) while McCaffery was an assistant coach there. “My relationship with Coach McCaffery spans 30 years and continues to evolve with each step."