Joni Taylor leaves Georgia to coach Texas A&M

Georgia head coach Joni Taylor during a game against Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)

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Georgia head coach Joni Taylor during a game against Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)

ATHENS — Joni Taylor has agreed to become the next women’s basketball coach at Texas A&M, leaving Georgia after seven seasons for another SEC school.

Georgia announced the move after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted the news of Taylor’s departure Wednesday morning.

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“Joni Taylor informed me she has accepted the head coaching position at Texas A&M,” Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said in a statement released by the school. “I want to personally thank Joni for being a great ambassador at the University of Georgia. From her Beyond Basketball group and involvement in many community organizations to her team’s successes on the court, her impact left a lasting impression on this program. We are forever grateful for the outstanding example of grace and humility she set for so many young women. I know these decisions are never easy, but we wish her, Darius, Jacie and Drew all the best on this new adventure.”

Taylor took over at Georgia in 2015, replacing Andy Landers. Taylor led the Lady Bulldogs to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including the second round the past two seasons.

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Georgia was eliminated by Iowa State, 67-44, last week. Taylor finished with a record of 140-75 at Georgia, including 21-10 this season. She went 62-48 in SEC play. Her tenure included three 20-win seasons, a 25-win campaign in 2017-18 and an appearance in the SEC Tournament final in 2021.

“A national search for our next head coach is already underway,” Brooks added in his statement. “As we have said in the past, we are committed to competing for championships and postseason success in each of our 21 sports. I am confident we will find the best person to help us achieve that mission and build on the great tradition of Georgia Lady Bulldog basketball.”

While terms have not yet been announced, Texas A&M is expected to increase Taylor’s compensation considerably. Taylor was just extended six years by UGA last year. Her new contract increased her salary $100,000 to $850,000 a year but increased incrementally to $925,000 in the final year, not including numerous performance bonuses.

At Texas A&M, Taylor will replace Gary Blair, who retired after this past season. She steps into the shoes of replacing another legend who leaves as one of the sport’s most-acclaimed coaches and recently had Reed Arena named after him.

There have been recent boosts in pay across women’s basketball. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley recently received $2.9 million per season in a seven-year contract extension. According to a report by USA Today, at least 11 women’s basketball coaches have salaries over $1 million.

Georgia left the NCAA Tournament remaining in search of its first Sweet 16 since 2013. Taylor said she eagerly awaited the opportunity to build on the latest season’s success. She had established a home in Athens with her husband Darius Taylor, newly named assistant general manager of the Atlanta Dream, to raise their two children, Jacie and Drew.

For Brooks, this is the fifth head coaching change he has had to oversee since becoming athletic director 14 months ago. He already has replaced the softball coach, men’s and women’s track coach, women’s soccer coach and, last month, the men’s basketball coach.

To date, firing Tom Crean and hiring Mike White from Florida to coach men’s hoops has been the most high profile. This one is a solid No. 2.