Monday, November 20, 2017
Sports

Team Kia or Team Cadillac? Area high school coaches split on Willie Taggart

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Clearly veteran Hillsborough High coach Earl Garcia wasn't speaking for all of his local peers when he publicly blasted former USF coach Willie Taggart on national signing day.

But he wasn't a vitriolic voice in the wilderness either.

Since saying Wednesday that Taggart "had absolutely no relationship with local coaches," Garcia's claim has been corroborated by some, contradicted by others.

Fourth-year Jesuit coach Matt Thompson said he "never had any relationship with Taggart." But Pinellas Park's Kenny Crawford indicated he was "okay with Willie," adding the two have enjoyed a longtime relationship.

In a phone interview Thursday evening with the Tampa Bay Times, Taggart said he was shocked upon learning of Garcia's comments and believes they might stem from Taggart hiring Plant's Robert Weiner instead of Garcia for a spot on his inaugural Bulls staff in early 2013.

Weiner had a change of heart and stepped down only days after being named USF receivers coach. On Thursday, Garcia said he never sought a position on Taggart's staff.

"The only thing I can think of … he wanted me to hire him when I first got the job there and I didn't," Taggart said. "And ever since then it hasn't been the same."

Taggart resigned in early December to accept the same job with Oregon after winning 17 of his final 21 games at USF. In his last game as Bulls coach, a 48-31 rout of UCF, nine of the Bulls' 22 starters — and 14 players on the two-deep chart — were from a bay area high school.

But Thursday, some suggested that local representation was in spite of Taggart and his staff's relationship with local coaches, not because of it.

"I had one meeting set with (Taggart) for noon, but he showed up three hours late," Thompson said, "so I didn't even meet with him because I had things to do. I never spoke to him after that."

Mike Gottman, Durant's coach for more than a decade, said he took several of his players to a USF camp one summer under the impression that Taggart and some of his "main coaches" would be there. None were, Gottman said.

Tom McHugh said Taggart stood in Pasco High's coaches office his first week on the job and told McHugh he would offer a scholarship to offensive lineman R.J. Scaife (now at Western Kentucky).

The offer never arrived, and McHugh said when he called Taggart's cellphone, someone else answered and told him he was mistaken about the offer.

"I was done with them after that," McHugh said.

"I'm right there with what Earl said," Gottman said. "Taggart did not foster relationships with local coaches. You want the coach of the local university to have a good connection with the local high schools, and in my opinion Taggart did not."

Others cast Taggart in a much brighter light. Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle, a Hillsborough quarterback for Garcia in the mid 1990s, said USF "has always been very good to Jefferson and the needs of our players they've signed."

Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts, who has watched former Titan Tajee Fullwood flourish as a USF safety, said he also had a good relationship with Taggart. "(Taggart) invited me to speak at his coaching clinic, which I did," Roberts said. "And everything went great."

Garcia also was invited to speak at USF's clinics, Taggart said, but never responded. Two of Garcia's players — linebacker Nigel Harris and defensive back Michael Hampton — signed with USF on Taggart's watch.

Running back Duran Bell was part of new Bulls coach Charlie Strong's inaugural class, but he committed to USF while Taggart was coach.

"I'm like, 'Where is this coming from?' " Taggart said of Garcia's comments. "Really, he doesn't have any legs to stand on because we still get guys from Hillsborough."

Longtime Armwood coach Sean Callahan suggested some coaches' problems weren't necessarily with Taggart but instead the USF assistants recruiting their respective schools.

Callahan indicated he felt Armwood didn't become a big priority with USF until defensive coordinator Tom Allen — a former Hawks assistant — was hired in 2015. Allen remained at USF one season before accepting the same job at Indiana, where he's now head coach.

Hawks defensive standouts Mekhi LaPointe and Jabreel Stephens signed with the Bulls on Wednesday, but Armwood didn't have a USF signee in the Taggart era.

"When Taggart got there, it started off slow, and Tom Allen got there and it got much better," Callahan said. "And Coach (Charlie) Strong has only been here a little bit, but he has been very good. All in all, Armwood really can't complain, even though there have been lapses."

Similarly, former Plant City coach Greg Meyer said he appreciated Taggart and Allen for granting a preferred walk-on spot to 2015 Guy Toph Award winner Markese Hargrove, who is at USF on an academic scholarship.

But Meyer said he had serious issues with other Bulls staffers he refused to name.

"There were guys on that staff that were not doing things on the up and up as far as just basic relationships go," Meyer said. "But Willie himself, I liked."

Times staff writer Rodney Page and correspondent Scott Purks contributed to this report. Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

   
Comments
Flames ride hot Gaudreau, beat Capitals

Flames ride hot Gaudreau, beat Capitals

WASHINGTON — Johnny Gaudreau would rather talk about anything other than his offensive production. He’s just making it impossible to avoid. Gaudreau had a goal and an assist to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games and lead the Flames to a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cavs roll over Pistons, close in on Central lead

Cavs roll over Pistons, close in on Central lead

DETROIT — An emphatic win over a first-place opponent had LeBron James and the Cavaliers talking confidently again. "We haven’t had a win like that in a very long time," James said. "That’s what happens when we don’t let up." James scored 16 of his 1...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingWelterweights: Alexander vs. Castillo7:30 p.m.FS1College basketballMaui Invitational semifinal1:30 p.m.ESPNLegends Classic third-place game3:30 p.m.ESPNUMaui Invitational consolation game4 p.m.ESPN2Legends Classic final6 p.m.ESPN2George Ma...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Florida A&M football coach Alex Wood resigns

TALLAHASSEE — Alex Wood resigned as Florida A&M football coach Monday, two days after the Rattlers completed their season. Athletic director Milton Overton Jr. said offensive line coach Edwin Pata, a former FSU tight end, will serve as interim coach....
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Doug Martin’s not at fault for struggling running game

Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Doug Martin’s not at fault for struggling running game

TAMPA — RB Doug Martin had just 38 yards on 19 carries in Sunday’s win against the Dolphins, but coach Dirk Koetter said his team’s struggles running the ball shouldn’t go squarely on his running back."In my opinion, he is not the reason we’re not mo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Nick Ferrini and Kellyn Trowse

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Nick Ferrini and Kellyn Trowse

HomeTeam Hot Shots Nick Ferrini, MitchellOn Monday, Ferrini embarked on a five-day cruise with 30 family members. "Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, you name it," he said. Destinations during the trip include Key West, The Bahamas and a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

GAINESVILLE — At last, there’s some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.The Gators sent a group — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about U...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Reeling Broncos fire offensive coordinator

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave. Klint Kubiak will take over as QBs coach while Musgrave calls plays for the final six weeks of a soured season tha...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sports in brief

Sports in brief

OBITUARYnovotna, known for endearing embrace, dies at 49PRAGUE — Jana Novotna, a tennis Hall of Famer who sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in a Wimbledon final, died Sunday at the age of 49. Th...
Updated: 3 hours ago