When long-time Plattsburgh State men’s soccer coach Chris Waterbury retired after the 2017 season, those in the Cardinal athletic department had a massive task ahead of them to replace him.
Last Wednesday, they announced that they found their man in 2011 PSUC alumnus Chris Taylor.
Taylor played his college career with the Cards and served as an assistant coach with the team in the 2011 and 2012 seasons before moving on to coaching jobs at Vassar College and Clarkson University, but PSUC was always in the back of his mind.
“Once I left, after being an assistant coach for a couple years, I realized that I really cared about the program,” Taylor said. “Being away, I always found myself checking the scores more. I would be talking to Waterbury more than I had, and I realized that I missed the place.”
Waterbury retired at the end of the 2017 season after a 33-year career that saw eight SUNYAC championships and 11 appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament. Taylor heard the news from the man himself, but it took a bit for the opportunity to register.
“He actually called me the night before it went public,” Taylor said. “He didn’t want me to hear from someone else. It wasn’t something I really thought about in that moment, I was more so just speechless that he was going to retire. Once I processed it, though, I knew I wanted to come back.”
Taylor spent four seasons at Clarkson, earning a 27-35-7 win-loss-tie record in the process. The previous four years before him had seen the Golden Knights go 16-43-5.
Last season, Taylor coached Clarkson to the first Liberty League tournament berth that the program had seen since 1998, finishing the year with a 4-3-2 record in conference play, 8-8-2 overall.
These were viewed as big steps of improvement for the Clarkson program, but Taylor is looking forward to the amplified expectations that come with his move to PSUC.
“I took over a job at Clarkson where the team had only won two games the year before, and we posted some pretty decent seasons in comparison, and everyone was pretty happy with that,” Taylor said. “Now, if you don’t win the SUNYAC Championship at Plattsburgh, questions are asked of you. I’m looking for that type of pressure. I wanted that type of pressure as a player, I want that type of pressure as a coach.”
Taylor looks back at his time with Clarkson fondly, though, and views it as experience that he needed to be able to get to where he is now as a coach.
“They hired me as a really young coach who maybe didn’t have the resume that most head coaches do,” Taylor said. “I needed that experience because I knew what I wanted as a coach, but I didn’t really know how to get it. I knew what I wanted my teams to do and how i wanted my teams to play, but getting them to do that is a totally different thing.”
Coming in for a coach like Waterbury will no doubt be a challenge. Any coach’s 33-year career would leave behind a fairly cemented legacy, nevermind a coach as successful as Waterbury.
Taylor understands the legacy that comes along with following Waterbury’s steps and relishes the opportunity to be a part of it.
“It’s going to be difficult, there’s not doubt about that,” Taylor said. “Waterbury’s had a tremendous career, one of the best around, but that’s why the job was desirable in the first place, because of what he’s built. If Waterbury hadn’t done the job that he’s done I probably wouldn’t have ended up playing for him and I certainly wouldn’t have ended up wanting the job.”
The Cards are coming off of a SUNYAC final loss that ended the 2017 season, and their last championship win was in 2013.
Taylor has work to do to get acclimated, but his sights are still set for the top.
“I’ve got to get to know the team a little bit better before I place any specific targets on us,” Taylor said. “The expectation is to always compete in the SUNYAC and try and get into the NCAA [tournament].”
Taylor went on to cite PSUC’s strength of schedule in the upcoming season as a possible avenue towards an NCAA at-large bid if the season goes well, with SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Cortland and Buffalo State all being SUNYAC teams that made it to the national stage last year.
“My expectation is to battle with all of them, and hopefully come November we’ll be playing in some big games,” Taylor said. “As an alumnus, I’ve always had high expectations of the program, and now as a coach I feel responsible for it. We need to be in the postseason, and we need to be playing for as long as possible.”