The Hollis boys basketball team will be making its first appearance at the state tournament since 2000.
But a Larry Taylor-coached Hollis boys team will be making its seventh straight trip, facing Pond Creek-Hunter in Thursday’s first round at 8:30 p.m. in Yukon.
Taylor became the Hollis coach in 1985, stepping down after taking the Tigers to six consecutive state tournaments from 1995-2000. His teams reached the finals in 1992 and 1997, and won it all in 1998.
Last year, Taylor had been watching the Tigers from afar, still passionate about the program. But he was busy teaching chemistry at a school in Texas. Former coach Brent Cummins had talked strategy with Taylor and asked for his advice a few times throughout the season.
“One of those nights, I came home, and my wife said, ‘I see that fire in your eyes again,’” Taylor said. “I’m 64 years old. Any kind of fire in my eyes is a good thing.”
When Cummins left after the season, Hollis administrators called Taylor, and he took the job.
“My wife said I needed a sanity check,” Taylor said. “But I was excited to get the chance to come back.”
This wasn’t Taylor’s first time stepping in to fill a void for these players at Hollis — though the first time was much different.
When the current seniors were sixth-graders, their science teacher died in the middle of the school year, and Taylor took over the class. That’s when players such as Tyler Bess and T.J. Walker got their first interaction with Taylor.