I was sad to read about the passing of BYU great Alan Taylor this morning. I didn't get to watch Alan Taylor play. I don't have any personal connection with him. But I have pored over the history of BYU Basketball and knew immediately the program lost a titan yesterday.
Here's a secret about BYU Basketball most people don't know.
The 1980-81 Elite Eight team wasn't the best team to ever play in the Marriott Center era. They were the most successful. The 1979-80 team was a better team.
The 1979-80 team returned all of its starters from the previous year's WAC Championship team: Scott Runia, Danny Ainge, Devin Durrant, Fred Roberts, and Alan Taylor. It didn't hurt that the Cougars added freshman Greg Kite either. There was a lot of excitement about this group of Cougars. Sophomores Durrant and Roberts were selected to play for a USA All-Star team and played in China over the summer. You know about Ainge, he was playing baseball on the Toronto Blue Jays that summer. The steady seniors Runia and Taylor returned as 2nd-team All-WAC selections to round out this team with four future NBA players on it. The Marriott Center's season tickets were sold out in anticipation.
In Alan Taylor's senior season, he averaged 12.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. He was big, strong, tough, unselfish, and loyal to his teammates. He was selected as the 1st Team All-WAC Center. He and Ainge were the only players on this stacked team to earn All-Conference honors that season. Not Roberts, Kite, Durrant, or Runia. Alan Taylor. His team earned its second consecutive WAC Championship en route to a 24-5 record (best in school history at that point) and a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Only the 2010-11 Cougars have ever earned that high of a seed in the tournament.
The Cougars received a first-round bye from the round of 64. Sixth-seeded and Larry Nance-led Clemson eked out a win over Utah State and were set to take on BYU in the round of 32 in a game at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
He ended his career at BYU with one of the most gut wrenching losses in BYU history. The Cougars fell 71-66 to the Tigers, who would make a run all the way to the Elite Eight. But that game would have been far more embarrassing without Alan Taylor on our side. Taylor was the only thing going for BYU on that day. He shot 10-12 from the field and 7-11 from the line to finish with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Ainge had 13 points on as many shots. Taylor was the only guy on the team to shoot over 50% on that day. Late in the game Taylor fouled out, and based on the way everybody else on the game had it going, that fifth foul almost certainly spelled out the sad ending for this historic BYU team.
Alan Taylor scored 11.7 ppg and grabbed 8.4 rpg in his career. For comparison:
Brandon Davies 12.4 ppg and 6.2 rpg.
Trent Plaisted 13.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg.
Russell Larson 14.5 ppg and 6.4 rpg.
Gary Trost 10.5 ppg and 5.3 rpg.