In Monroeville, community support for the Coastal Alabama Community College men's basketball program is surging, along with the Eagles' win total. Coach Chuck Taylor and his staff are inspiring incredible performances from the players, resulting in the team's first signature win of the young season, an 86-82 upset of No. 11 Daytona State. Going into its Dec. 29 contest against Eastern Florida State College, the Eagles are 6-3 and on a five-game winning streak.
Following the victory, the Eagles received votes to enter the NJCAA Top 25, and are currently ranked 27th. And as easy as it might have been to forecast a season's worth of similar moments, Taylor had a clear message for his team after defeating the Falcons.
"Our biggest message was that you have to believe, and when you believe and work hard at it, great things come to you," he said. "And now you have an opportunity to go home for a few days and enjoy this accomplishment, but you can't linger on that one.
"There's another game to prepare for."
Taylor, a longtime mentor on campus in his second year as the Eagles's head coach, said his team's success — coming after a 2021 rebuilding season still dominated by pandemic complications — is a testament to the faith the administration has in him, and that he has in his players.
"Knowing that we could work hard and push the buttons that I need to push to get these guys mentally and physically prepared, it was just a matter of time before we turned the corner and got them on one page, one mission, one accomplishment at a time," Taylor said. "It wouldn't be possible without our leadership."
Although he credits College President Dr. Craig Pouncey and Athletic Director Daniel Head for giving him the needed support, Head himself said the school was fortunate that its next great coach was available at the same moment the job came available, after former Head Coach William Brown left for another opportunity.
"Chuck's got an infectious personality and he genuinely cares about the kids and their success as human beings, even beyond basketball," Head said. "Everywhere he's been, he's been successful, in part because he's a great communicator, he's compassionate, and there's nothing fake about him."
That authenticity and humility can be major assets after a team has a breakout win, Head said. Some teams achieve an upset and tend to forget what got them to that precipice, but he doesn't believe the Eagles will fall in such a trap.
"I'm betting on Coach Taylor because he has the experience, and he's been around it enough to know how to to manage that," he said. "And I feel like this only help them continue on the path of success that they're currently on."