By Seth Mikel, Sports Information Director, Taylor University (Ind.)
Taylor University’s legendary head men’s basketball coach, Paul Patterson, announced on Tuesday that he plans to retire at the end of the academic school year, ending a record-setting 34-year stint at the helm of the Trojan men’s basketball program.
“Coach Patterson’s service to Taylor and men’s basketball is a legacy that will have timeless honor,” stated Taylor University Athletic Director Dr. Angie Fincannon. “He has helped to define small college basketball in Indiana and throughout this country.”
“When I think about my time at Taylor University, one of the things that stands out is the number of outstanding educators that I have worked with,” reflected Patterson. “Most of all however, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with so many tremendous young men on our teams.”
Patterson became the head coach for Taylor in the 1979-1980 season, following a 32-year stint by Don Odle on the Taylor sidelines and has since become TU’s all-time leader with 734 wins and a .662 winning percentage, while making countless contributions to his student-athletes and the TU campus.
At the end of the 2012-2013 campaign, Patterson ranked second among all active NAIA Division II head coaches in wins and 11th all-time among all men’s basketball collegiate coaches with the 734 career victories on the bench. That total also placed Patterson as the all-time wins leader of any collegiate head coach in the state of Indiana.
The historic win total helped Patterson’s Taylor squads rack up 15 conference championships and 14 appearances into the NAIA National Tournament, which led to a pair of trips to NAIA quarterfinals and one Fab Four bid for the Trojans.
For his efforts, Patterson garnered 12 Coach-of-the-Year honors, including being named the NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1991. During the 1990-1991 season, Patterson led Taylor to a school-record 34 victories and the program’s first Fab Four.
Patterson, who is a member of the NAIA, Hanover College and Grant County Hall of Fames, leaves Taylor after amassing 28 winning seasons and 23 campaigns with 20-or-more victories with the Purple and Gold. Patterson also guided Taylor through one of the most successful 10-year stretches of any collegiate program, after steering TU to 10-straight seasons of at least 25 victories from 1984-1985 through 1993-1994. That span put Taylor in the company of UCLA, UNLV and Lipscomb as the only men’s basketball programs to accomplish that feat.
Along the way, Patterson coached 24 NAIA All-Americans and now boasts an extensive coaching tree that includes collegiate and high school coaches around the nation.
One of his most well-known former players and current head coach at the University of Illinois, John Groce, calls Patterson a legend and adds, “When you study his career and accomplishments, it is amazing how many lives he has touched at Taylor.”
Groce played under Patterson from 1991 through 1993, before getting his coaching career started on Patterson’s staff from 1994 through 1996. “I feel so fortunate to have played for him and coached with him. He was my first mentor who had a major role in shaping the coach and person that I am today.”
Gardner-Webb University Head Coach, Chris Holtmann, who was recently named the Big South Conference and NABC District III Coach of the Year for the NCAA Division I Runnin’ Bulldogs said, “Coach Patterson was the reason I went to Taylor University and he is the reason that I am coaching today. As a Division I coach, there is not a decision I make that is not in some way influenced by playing and working for Coach Patterson.”
Holtmann was named an NAIA All-American following his senior season in 1993-1994, before serving on Patterson’s coaching staff as a graduate assistant and later as a top assistant.
“Coach Patterson is the most value driven coach I have ever been around,” added Holtmann. “It mattered to him at the highest level if we grew as Christians, students and players during our time at Taylor. He is one of the most passionate people I have been around and such a gift to TU over the past 34 years. The best sign of gratitude his former players can give back to Coach Patterson for all he gave us is to live lives of excellence, purpose and meaning as people of faith.”
Another NAIA All-American and member of the 1990-1991 Fab Four team, David Wayne, spoke to Patterson’s ability to push his players to reach their full potential on the court and in their spiritual lives. “Coach Patterson pushed me beyond what I thought was capable and he pushed our teams to overachieve. Most importantly, he pushed us closer to Jesus through our interest in basketball. I am thankful that Coach Patterson devoted his years in the game to developing the toughness in his players to win the daily battles of life for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
Steve Brooks, the head women’s basketball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University and two-time NAIA Division II National Champion, shared similar thoughts on the effect that Coach Patterson had on him by saying, “I owe everything to Paul in my coaching career because of his impact on my life professionally and spiritually.”
Brooks was a senior on Patterson’s first Taylor squad and went on to spend nine seasons as an assistant coach for Patterson. “My biggest regret was not being able to play for Paul all four years. He taught me so many things in the game of basketball that enabled me to do what I have done. He had a huge significance on my life.”
A teammate of Brooks on that first team of Coach Patterson's at Taylor and current two-time Coach of the Year in the state of Ohio at Stow Munroe Falls High School, Dave Close, shared similar thoughts. “Paul is one of the most influential people in my life. He is the first person who integrated the Christian faith into athletics for me. His mission was his student-athletes and he put his words into action every day.”
Those sentiments summarize the wide-spread impact on and off the hardwood that Patterson made on the players that have passed through his program over the past 34 years at Taylor University. Patterson’s biggest source of pride however, is that every student-athlete that played all four years under his guidance went on to earn a college degree.
Fincannon echoed that by saying, “Paul’s philosophy of developing men of Christian character through no-nonsense hard work and dedication has produced excellence in so many ways and in so many graduates.”
Patterson added, “There are so many success stories of guys who entered the program on one level and left several levels higher on and off the court. I believe God speaks to us in things that we care about and we are blessed to have had young men who have cared so much about their basketball and academic experience as God’s men.”
Along with his time on the bench for the Trojans, Patterson also served as an Associate Professor for the Physical Education and Human Performance Department at Taylor and oversaw the TU Basketball Camp which has over 65,000 alumni. Patterson has also been an active member in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, working FCA basketball camps over the past 20 years.
Fincannon will immediately begin a national search for the 12th head coach in the 81-year history of the tradition-rich Taylor men’s basketball program. The successful candidate will take over a Trojan basketball program that currently ranks 11th in the NAIA with 1,267 victories.