August 16, 2023

After Coaching Stops at 4 Division III Programs, Taylor Bringing College Mentality to PDS Boys’ Lax

NICK OF TIME: Nick Taylor makes a point during his tenure as the head coach of the Haverford College men’s lacrosse team. Taylor left Haverford this spring to take the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse program. (Photo by David Sinclair Photography)

By Bill Alden

Upon wrapping up a superb college lacrosse career at Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham in 2008, Nick Taylor was planning to leave the game.

“After FDU, I went to American University and earned a master’s degree there,” said Taylor. “I was really intent on taking a stab at the public relations side. I have a degree in public communications.”

But while studying for his master’s degree, Taylor was pulled back into lacrosse, doing some volunteer coaching for the Catholic University men’s program. Realizing that he could make a career out of the game he loves, Taylor ultimately became an assistant coach at Catholic from 2009-12.

From there, he served as an assistant at Cabrini from 2013-14 and then became a head coach at Arcadia from 2014-18 and moved on the Haverford College where he guided the program for the last five years.

Looking to get off the college carousel, Taylor is bringing that extensive background at the next level to the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team, having succeeded Joe Moore as the program’s head coach.

“In short, it was definitely a family decision. I have a young family,” said Taylor, 37, who has two children — a daughter, Wyatt, 3, and a son, Tate, nine months — with his wife, Kelly, a nurse.

“As much as college lacrosse is rewarding and exciting, you are just away from home so much. I really felt in meeting with Katie Fay, the athletic director here, that they were really interested in bringing in someone with college experience to help PDS.”

As a middle schooler growing up in Newark, Delaware, Taylor found a home in lacrosse.

“I was a hockey player and a baseball guy, but when they started throwing curveballs I needed a new sport,” said Taylor with a laugh. “Eighth grade rolls around and I pick up a lacrosse stick and I just fell in love with the sport. I think it is a really common story. If you are a good athlete and you work hard at the specifics of the sport, the stick skills and stuff, you can really take off pretty quick. That was truly my story. From that point on, from eighth grade through college, I had a stick in my hands.”

Taylor headed to New Jersey for college, matriculating to FDU-Florham and joining its men’s lacrosse team.

“FDU ended up being the right fit, and I had a really successful career there,” said Taylor, who was a four-year member of the FDU men’s lax squad, serving as a captain his last two seasons and being named a first-team All-Middle Atlantic Conference defender in 2008.

“I think it is the people. A lot of sports will talk about a brotherhood, but there is something about lacrosse that is so niche and so close knit. The guys you play lacrosse with end up being your lifelong friends and they end up in your wedding. Those are things you don’t think of when you are in college, but it is super rewarding.”

In joining the staff at Catholic, then head coach Brooks Singer played a key role in getting him on the coaching career path.

“Brooks brought me on; 2008-09 was a tough time to get a job,” said Taylor. “Brooks was like, ‘Listen, let me get you a job in admissions, come work in the college and you can coach.’ I started to figure out that hey, this could be a career. I do think what I was so fortunate for was balancing roles in advancement and admissions when I was an assistant coach.”

Moving on to Cabrini University, Taylor served as the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, honing his skills in the process.

“At the time I was joining the program, it was ranked in the top 5 in Division III, legitimately competing for a national championship every year,” said Taylor. “We had a ton of success, we were ranked second in the country. We were 17-2 one year. I coached the D-III player of the year and 15 All Americans. When we talk about the highest level of Division III lacrosse — that was that experience at Cabrini. It was so formative to my experience.”

In 2014, Taylor got his first head coaching gig, taking the helm of the Arcadia University men’s lacrosse program.

“At Arcadia, I definitely understood the task at hand; I was the third head coach in their third year of existence,” said Taylor, who helped the team move up in the MAC Commonwealth standings, leading it to a 6-8 campaign in his final season there.

“I knew that the goal there was to lay the foundation. It was going to be heavy recruiting. It was going to be building a program from the ground up and not for nothing it took some time for us to really get going. I am really proud of the work that we did there.”

Moving on to become the head coach at Haverford College in 2018, Taylor was confronted with an off-field challenge, leading the program through COVID-shorted seasons.

“You had to be really creative at times; there were so many restrictions and seasons being canceled that it really tested your culture and your system,” said Taylor, whose team played only six games in 2020 and just one in 2021. “I tell you, there wasn’t a better group that we could have gone through that with. Haverford lacrosse players are so self-motivated and disciplined. It just takes a certain person to be really successful there, whereas I know other coaches and colleagues had a lot of different challenges with COVID. I really felt like during that time I could march with my team. We were still making progress.”

Over his five-year stint at Haverford, they defeated several top-20 foes as the Fords went 16-36.

“Every single year, we maximized the potential within our roster,” said Taylor. “So much credit goes to the guys that I coached. I felt like by the time we were in year three, year four, we were speaking the same language and all moving in the right direction. In three full seasons, I think I left with five top-20 wins. It helped put Haverford lacrosse back in that conversation of being nationally competitive. That was a goal of mine from the beginning. I have always been a rebuilder in my time as a head coach. I have taken on some projects that have been challenging at times. I think ultimately that is really rewarding for me.”

Taylor is excited for his new project at PDS, taking over a program that is coming off a 2023 superb campaign which saw it go 15-7, winning the Prep B state crown and making the final of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public Group B tourney.

“They are very good, they had a great season,” said Taylor. “I think the vision of lacrosse at PDS is truly to run a college-like program. I just feel like I will be the next guy to take the lead here. Joe did such a phenomenal job. You look back at coaches that have meant a lot in terms of Rich D’Andrea and Pete Higgins, guys that are absolutely legends in New Jersey lacrosse. It is about leaning into the things that have always been good here and just putting on your own stamp.”

As Taylor went through the interview process at PDS, he felt a comfort level with the school.

“The community really spoke to me, I felt that same vibe as a small liberal arts college,” said Taylor. “The student athletes are playing multiple sports and involved in all of the different clubs and organizations. They are great academically. They are willing to help each other and they are all hard workers. Those type of traits in terms of my vision of lacrosse and running a program really resonate with me.”

In addition to coaching lacrosse, Taylor will have additional roles in the PDS community as he will be working in the school administration.

“I couldn’t leave a full-time college coaching job without a full-time job here on campus,” said Taylor. “I was really lucky and fortunate. I will be working in events and rentals in the school year and in the summer, I will be managing some of their summer programs. When we talk about implementing a lacrosse program and a culture and running it like a college program, it is important that I am here every day and that I am in house. You can meet with families who are interested in PDS, you can have guys stop by and give support in so many ways.”

This summer, Taylor has been on campus as he has presided over the school’s camps.

“It has been great to get to know the staff. Getting to know the logistics of the place is going to allow us to hit the ground running in the fall, which is great,” said Taylor. “As the students start, I won’t be new. I will have this period of time where I have had an introduction to PDS. I think that will allow us to hit the ground running.”

In addition, Taylor has been introducing himself to his new players.

“We started to do some individual meetings; I have had a chance to meet with a number of families,” said Taylor. “Everyone seems really excited and energized. That is the beauty of it. When you look at last year’s team and the success they had, they were led by a big group of seniors. Any year that a team turns over to graduation and leadership changes, there is always an opportunity. We have to find out who we are and how best to go about it. What I love about it is that it is clear that the guys on the team are committed and that the families are committed and united.”

Utilizing connections developed over his coaching career, Taylor is starting the process to find new players who will fit into his vision for PDS lacrosse.

“What I have been able to do in a short time here is leverage a lot of those relationships I had through college recruiting,” said Taylor. “I am getting a better pulse of what the club game is like right now in New Jersey and what kids in Central Jersey might be interested in a place like PDS. We have the facilities, we have the support and the coach is full-time on campus. These are the things that, when you are looking at schools, will make us a little bit different and hopefully a little more attractive.”

But no matter what level he is coaching, Taylor is all in, all the time when he steps on the field.

“I have a deep passion and love for this game,” asserted Taylor. “I want guys who can match that shared passion and energy. I want guys who love to work and that the best part of their day is being on the practice field. I share that same sense.”