NORFOLK – Blaine Taylor never thought he’d work at Old Dominion again.
Fired as the school’s men’s basketball coach 22 games into a dismal 2012-13 season, Taylor fought his way through alcoholism before returning to coaching as an assistant at UC Irvine from 2016-20.
After leaving his post to have ankle and knee replacement surgery, Taylor was considering a fundraising job on the West Coast.
That’s when Monarchs athletic director Wood Selig stepped in.
Taylor sat beside Selig at an ODU basketball game, their conversation repeatedly interrupted by well-wishing fans in search of a handshake or a selfie with the beloved former Monarchs coach.
“If Blaine was going to pursue a career in athletic fundraising, why not do that right here at ODU with his family close by and so many friends in the area?” Selig said.
Taylor, against all odds, is returning to the school as a fundraiser for the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, the school announced Thursday at a news conference inside Chartway Arena.
The winningest men’s basketball coach in program history, Taylor will start June 10 as an athletic development officer for major gifts.
Once in a downward spiral, Taylor credited his Montana upbringing, in part, with the fact that he’s been sober for more than nine years.
“The thing my mom is most proud of is that I don’t drink,” Taylor said. “Go figure. One of the things I try not to do is stare at the past too much, but I am aware of it. So I come here as somebody who’s kind of rebuilt themselves. I had two choices when I hit that bottom: I could keep digging.
“I just had a resilient nature, I guess. Instead of digging deeper, I started working my way out. “
As a major gifts officer, Taylor will focus on capital projects such as the renovation of ODU’s baseball stadium and a football locker room expansion. He will also help raise money for scholarships and program enhancement funding in all 18 sports.
“Blaine has all the qualities that you look for in a fundraiser,” said ODAF executive director Jena Virga. He’s genuine, he’s passionate, he’s engaging and he’s a team player. He’s a natural. He’s a big personality and he’s fun to be around, and I know that’s going to pay off with our donors and our fans. “
Taylor was a prolific fundraiser during his 12 seasons at ODU, where he won 239 games and took the Monarchs to four NCAA Tournaments and the semifinals of the NIT.
He helped raise $ 7 million of the $ 8.4 million needed to build the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center. He also helped endow 13 men’s basketball scholarships, all at the $ 250,000 level.
“I’m really excited to have Blaine join the ODAF team,” said current basketball coach Jeff Jones. “He’s been a friend for a long time, and I have no doubt that he will do a great job, not just for men’s basketball, but raising money for the entire athletic department.”
Baseball coach Chris Finwood, who was close with Taylor when he coached at ODU, said it was “just awesome news” when he heard ODAF was hiring Taylor.
“He’s going to do a great job,” Finwood said. “He’s such an engaging guy.
“And he’s such a great success story, given all that he went through and how he turned his life around. “His story is going to resonate with people.”
Taylor, 64, said he had plenty of help achieving sobriety. He was nothing short of incredulous when Selig, who fired him in 2013, mentioned the possibility of his returning.
“It’s easy to believe in people when they’re on top,” Taylor said. “But the people that believed in me when I wasn’t, boy, there’s a lot of people that I owe a lot to, and you feel inclined to try to give back to others when the opportunity arises. There’s a lot of people that don’t get as far as I have, and I feel very blessed that somehow, things fell into place where I can be where I’m at today. “
David Hall, email@example.com