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Moving from one great program to another, Joni Taylor is on the rise as a head coach

We take a break from our Final Four coverage to bring you some analysis of big news in the NCAAW world. Head coach Joni Taylor is headed from the Georgia Lady Bulldogs to the Texas A&M Aggies.

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Joni Taylor
Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Georgia Lady Bulldogs have been to four more Final Fours than the Texas A&M Aggies and eight more Elite Eights. They were just building steam as a program over the last two seasons with a No. 3 seed earned in 2020-21 and a ranking as high as No. 13 this year. The Aggies missed the NCAA Tournament this year with a record of 14-15 (4-12 SEC).

Yet, Texas A&M is still the bigger-name program right now, having won the national championship in 2011 and having been to three more Sweet Sixteens and one more NCAA Tournament since legendary Georgia coach Andy Landers retired after the 2015 season.

Landers’ successor in Athens, Joni Taylor, must believe she can create something special in College Station, because she has accepted the opportunity to replace another legendary coach in Gary Blair, who won that 2011 national championship and retired after A&M’s loss in this year’s SEC Tournament.

Taylor leaves behind seven seasons with Georgia in which she went to four NCAA Tournaments and three second rounds. In 2020-21 she achieved her highest NCAA Tournament seed, won SEC Coach of the Year and took the Lady Bulldogs to the SEC Tournament championship game. It was the first SEC title game to feature two Black women head coaches, with Dawn Staley leading Taylor’s victorious opponent, the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The positive energy that Taylor brought to the Georgia program, her charisma and coaching talents were on full display during that SEC Tournament run, which received increased attention because of the racial history achieved. It’s no wonder that a year later Texas A&M saw her as an attractive candidate to hire and hopefully return Texas A&M to national power status. It might be a bit curious though that Taylor, who spent four years at Georgia under Landers, including three as associate head coach, decided to leave a historically great program she had invested so much in and had moving in the right direction.

Georgia actually beat Texas A&M in the 2021 SEC Tournament quarterfinals. It was that big win over the No. 2 team in the country at the time that garnered the No. 3 seed in the Big Dance.

A&M was the No. 1 seed in that tournament because of a huge win over South Carolina in its regular-season finale. It was a winner-take-the-SEC-regular-season-crown game. Because of that win, Texas A&M earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and was considered to be a national championship contender.

The Aggies disappointed in the Big Dance by struggling to beat Troy in the first round and only surviving in the second round on a Jordan Nixon buzzer-beating layup in overtime before losing to Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen. While it was a disappointing showing, it was not reflective of how good a team Texas A&M was in 2020-21. Aggieland hopes Taylor can get the program back to where it was that season.