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Legendary Oak Bay, UVic basketball coach Taylor to be remembered in celebration of life

Event is Tuesday afternoon at Uplands Golf Club
Gary Taylor coached at both Oak Bay High School and UVic. SUBMITTED

As a long-standing vice-principal and principal in School District 61, Gary Taylor used to say the gymnasium is the heartbeat of a school. Fittingly, considering his mantra, balls are now dribbled, passed and dunked at Oak Bay High School in a gym that bears his name after coaching the Bays to the heights in high school boys’ basketball before coaching the University of ­Victoria Vikes.

Many former players will be retelling old Taylor tales today during his celebration of life ceremony from 2 to 4 p.m. at Uplands Golf Club. Taylor died in December at 92.

“Gary’s competitiveness, positivity, and knowledge were just what I needed at that time in my life and rubbed off on me,” said Dave Morgan, who starred for Taylor at Oak Bay, and who later also coached the Bays.

“I admired Garfield greatly. I loved playing for him and I believe I can say that for all the players that played for him.”

Taylor guided the Bays to six Island championships and four B.C. championship-game appearances in the 1960s. Taylor’s Bays won the B.C. high school crown in 1965 and 1968 and lost in championship games twice to the arch-rival Vic High Totems in all-Island finals in 1966 and 1969.

Taylor went on to became head coach of UVic in 1970 — a time-consuming job he took on a volunteer basis while also working as a full-time high school administrator — and having five winning seasons with the Vikes while capturing a Canada West championship. He strongly lobbied UVic to make coaching a paid position, which the institution did after he left, as he handed the ball to his successor Ken Shields. But not before laying the foundation for Shields’ seven-time national championship UVic dynasty of the 1980s, led by players such as Olympians Eli Pasquale, Gerald Kazanowski and Greg Wiltjer.

“[Taylor] emphasized team basketball and his energy and positivity was contagious to our [Oak Bay] team. As a team we just wore teams down and he went on to UVic and it was the same,” said Morgan.

Taylor was driven but also gentle, patient and understanding when it came to his athletes. He also coached championship swimming and track and field teams at Oak Bay and was vice-chair of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games.

A two-sport varsity athlete at UBC in football and basketball, Taylor’s coaching philosophy was greatly influenced by his Thunderbirds football coach Don Coryell, who went on to become head coach in the NFL of the pass-happy San Diego Chargers teams that became known as ‘Air Coryell.’

Taylor passed on his love of the game to son Graham Taylor, who played at Oak Bay under Morgan, before winning three national championships with Shields’ UVic dynasty teams. The family legacy continued into a third generation at Oak Bay as Graham’s children and Gary’s grandchildren, Lynden and Heath Taylor, both recently starred for the Breakers and Bays.

“My dad helped build the basketball foundations at Oak Bay and UVic,” said son Graham Taylor, who went on to become head coach at Oak Bay from 1998 to 2003 and assistant coach in recent seasons.

“Dad was so interested in students and their education and well-being and a big part of that is he wanted students to be active as well outside the classroom. That included sports as well as theatre, music, band and all the other extra-curriculars that he felt were integral to the school experience. It’s always great when people come up to me still and tell me how inspired they were by my dad.”

Gary Taylor, a native of Powell River, came to Oak Bay High to teach in 1956 and became vice-principal at Lansdowne Junior High in 1970, principal of Cedar Hill Junior High in 1976 and retired as principal of Lambrick Park Secondary in 1990 after providing the administrative support that helped Lambrick Park coaches turn Lions and Pride sports programs into provincial powerhouses that have gone on to produce Olympians and MLB players.

Taylor is survived by his wife of 67 years, Margot, daughter Alison (Rob), son Graham (Erika) and grandchildren Grant, Lynden and Heath. Taylor was pre-deceased by daughter Susan.

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