Centennial High School head coach Richard Taylor is in his 29th year at the helm of the Coyote program this season.
The only coach in the program’s history, he has solidified himself as one of the greats in Arizona high school football.
With seven State Titles, four of which came in the span of five years, and a plethora of players who have gone on to play at the next level, Taylor has built Centennial into one of the powerhouse programs in Arizona.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit this past spring there was no question that Taylor would be back on the sidelines in the fall.
“I think I’m pretty healthy for my age,” Taylor said. “I try to eat right and take vitamins. I don’t like to live in fear. I like to be able to do what I like to do.
“I know some people as they get older are very careful about everything. I just prefer not to live my life that way.”
What sets Taylor a part from most is his selflessness and his ability to be a “multi-generational mentor,” special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach Steve Issac said.
“His temperament and patience and his ability to be truly selfless, with not only his coaches, but his players (is what makes him unique),” Issac said. “It’s never been about him. He’s about relationship not transaction.”
— TJ McRae (@tjmack_tj) September 20, 2020
The relationships that Taylor has built are what Taylor’s son Andrew, the Coyotes defensive coordinator, most admires about his father as a coach, he said.
“A lot of coaches, they have a certain age group that they interact well with, but then maybe as they get older, they lose that relatability to players,” Andrew said.
“One of the qualities my dad has, and I’ve seen it since I was a little boy going to practices and games in the 80s to playing for him in the 90s and then coaching with him the last two decades, is he can relate to the players and talk to them and communicate with them in a way that’s really effective.”
Many call Taylor’s coaching style “old school,” but Taylor doesn’t mind, in fact he actually enjoys being referred to as such.
“In many ways it’s a lot better,” Taylor said. “I have my things that I’ve done for years and years and I don’t want to deviate from that. Even though it may not be popular or the cool thing to do, I think it is the right thing to do as far as football is concerned.”
Taylor attributes much of his success at Centennial to the little turnover he has had on his coaching staff and his coaches attribute their devotion to Coyote football to Taylor.
“I think one of the reasons for his longevity is that he doesn’t try to do everybody’s job,” Issac said. “He leads. He hires coaches to do those jobs. A lot of coaches are not secure enough to release control. Coach is very secure in who he is. He manages the game, he doesn’t try to implement the game plan, that’s what he has coordinators for.”
Andrew has had the opportunities to coach else where however, the opportunity to continue coaching with his father has kept him with the Centennial program.
“I’m a Coyote through and through,” Andrew said. “It is true there have been some other opportunities for me, but as I have looked in to things, at least up to this point in my life, there’s no other place I’ve wanted to be.”
— Caiden Miles (@MilesCaiden) May 11, 2020
The Taylor father, son relationship is a unique one, Issac said.
“One of the wonderful dynamics that I’ve been able to witness these last nine and half years is the dynamic of their relationship,” Issac said of the father son coaching duo.
“Coach Taylor is so gracious in saying that we were okay and we were doing pretty good, until Andrew came back from Tulsa, where he played. Coach will say that it was one of the best decisions he ever made as a coach, was to install Andrew as his defensive coordinator because we went from good to great.”
Taylor has a difficult time narrowing down a favorite memory from his 29 years at Centennial. He recalls winning his first game, the first State Championship, a few fond locker room speeches and special moments with his sons on the football field.
He said all of the memories tend to run together, but they all relate back to one thing.
— DJ Gleash (@GleashDj) May 10, 2020
“The thread that ties them all together is relationships,” Taylor said. “Not wins and losses and championships, but friendships.”
When it’s all said and done, whenever that may be, Taylor wants to be remembered not for those wins and State Titles, but for simply being a good person, he said.
“(To be remembered for) that I tried to make their son a better man…I want them to learn something from football that can carry over in to later life,” Taylor said. ”Watching a kid go from somebody that has little confidence to the point where not only does he have confidence, but he can give confidence to others. Those are the things that I think are still and always will be enjoyable.”
The GameTime Arizona season kicks off with two of the state’s top programs: #13 Centennial Coyotes vs. #5 Hamilton Huskies – Friday, October 2nd at 7:00 pm MT/9:00 pm CT.