Here’s a weird thought — I have known Nathan Taylor for more than half of my life.
I was a 25-year-old punk who got hired at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an assistant coach. Coach and I got along perfectly fine from day one, because we had a similar sense of humor and we shared a commitment to the athletes as he spent long hours in the track office and I did the same down the hall in the sports information office.
Also, he is a great coach. Or was a great coach. Today Nathan stepped down after 15 years as the head coach at Cornell, where he’d won so many League titles that I quit counting (ed. note: Okay, I went back and counted — Nathan’s Big Red have won 16 of 26 Indoor and Outdoor Heps titles since 2003). It certainly wasn’t the coaching or the kids. Nathan loved them all. And they love him (Click here for evidence). A lot of the former Penn athletes still head off to the Penn Relays to meet up with Nathan.
But being a head coach is about a lot more than coaching and the kids. At its best, it is a noble position. But if you treat it that way, it is hard to keep going. The demands — fundraising, paper work, stress, recruiting, bus rides, long weekends, dealing with admissions — are great. Add in a deep commitment to the kids, it will ultimately be too much.
Nathan confirmed the news tonight after it came to me in a Facebook post from All-American high jumper Montez Blair (that’s Nate and Tez above in the photo). And I can attest, the reaction from Montez is shared by hundreds.
“You pretty much adopted me as your own and I can certainly say that I wouldn’t be who and where I am in life without you,” he wrote. “When I needed someone to talk to, you were all ears. When I had tears to shed, you felt my pain and cried with me. When I needed a shoulder to lean on, you provided both of yours and would go grab another from thin air if you felt it necessary……..AND THE SMILES YOU’VE CREATED WILL SHINE ETERNALLY.
“Though this may conclude your journey as a historic track coach and mentor at Cornell University, your legacy will forever travel with the student athletes and families that you’ve blessed throughout your time as they continue to take their steps toward success in life. The example you’ve provided for all of us cannot be replicated and our level of appreciation for you cannot be described with words.
I think I speak for us all when I say, ‘WE LOVE YOU!'”
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. See you soon, Nathan!