Gable: Taylor should follow model created at Penn State, Iowa

Updated: June 11, 2024

Photo: Dan Gable believes David Taylor (left) should seek advice about Oklahoma State wrestling traditions from former legendary coach John Smith. (Oklahoma State photo)

Note: Similar to David Taylor being named head coach at Oklahoma State, Dan Gable was also hired to coach a college program (Iowa) shortly after a stellar career as a wrestler in the 1970s. Gable, who won 15 NCAA titles in 20 years with Iowa, recently spoke to WIN Editor Mike Finn about Taylor’s new position and the comparisons.

WIN: What did you think when you heard Oklahoma State hired Olympic/World champ David Taylor?

GABLE: Historically, Oklahoma State has been on the top of the list when it comes to all-time NCAA team championships (34). That record is impressive. But other schools have been catching up while Oklahoma State has not won a title for awhile (2006). I like to think the administration at Oklahoma State knew this and had to make something big happen when it came to naming a new head coach. He made a smart move because he had “blueprints” of what other schools have done to get back into contention … and that includes when Iowa hired me. And the same thing could be said when Penn State went after Cael Sanderson.

Like at Iowa and Penn State, Oklahoma State took their administration people full force and their money people full force and they had a name out there they went after. And David Taylor was among the most current credentialed wrestlers out there. Also, Penn State is dominating college wrestling now and who was tied with that domination? David Taylor.

WIN: Was it a gamble to hire David Taylor considering he has never coached college wrestling?

GABLE: He has coached young wrestlers at his academy, including some who are now at Penn State like Levi Haines. When Iowa hired me, I had the title of a graduate assistant at Iowa State while I was training to compete in the 1971 Worlds and 1972 Olympics. Taylor has been around college wrestlers while training at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

But the one thing that Iowa and Penn State provided was a model for programs to go after names like David Taylor. I have to give Oklahoma State a lot of credit. It was right in front of their face and now they are taking that model.

I also don’t think it’s a gamble by Oklahoma State. Everything is a gamble, but some things are so proven that the gamble becomes a reality. This does not mean Oklahoma State will take over college wrestling like Iowa and Penn State did. Because there are other places that also want to make that model come true. Kevin Dresser at Iowa State and Sean Bormet at Michigan are two examples and all coaches should be looking at this model of how to be successful. Even Little Rock has shown that by getting money people to invest in its program.

WIN: Similar to what happened at Iowa and Penn State in hiring you and Sanderson, Oklahoma State went outside its program to hire Taylor. Why is that important?

GABLE: Iowa State, hiring Dresser, a former Hawkeye, was also a good example of that and the Cyclones are improving. I will also say this: I was single when I got into coaching and David Taylor is married with three kids. He is stable with his finances. I also remember when Oklahoma State wanted to hire me when I was coaching at Iowa and my wife said, “Can you come home on weekends?” By that time, we had four daughters and she was not going to leave Iowa City. It was easier for me to take the Iowa job when I was single.

Taylor is going to have what he needs around him at Oklahoma State. It’s whether his family can make the adjustment because there are a lot of demands to be a head coach on the NCAA Division I Ievel, especially at Oklahoma State where they will demand success even more. It will help having his wife’s brother (Jimmy Kennedy) as his assistant coach.

People call Taylor the Magic Man. He’s going to have to continue to be the Magic Man because he’s going a long ways. Oklahoma State is providing the money, but money doesn’t always solve everything or make a difference in the performance of a team. It’s not going to be that easy, considering he’s never lived in that part of the country. Also, he’s not running his own business now. He has to answer to people. It’s going to take a family commitment for this to work.

WIN: What is his biggest obstacle as a coach?

GABLE: As mentioned, this is a new type of business for him. If he does not act like he’s the smartest guy in the world and if he can go get some help to catch up, he will have resources there. John Smith would be one of his best resources. 

Taylor is going to need some help because he’s going from working with kids at his club to now coaching young adults.

He’s going to have to take young people and get them to perform at a level that hasn’t happened religiously at Oklahoma State for awhile. They are not bringing him in to be second. That’s what I faced when I came to Iowa, but that’s what I wanted.

He’s got to be careful not to take on too much himself. He has to have his nose into everything but he can’t do everything by himself. Oklahoma State is serious about winning. Also, he’s not going to have eight-hour days. He will have 24-hour workdays. But he’s got to find ways to unwind.

WIN: You have mentioned in the past you started feeling like a coach while you were still competing in college and international wrestling. Do you think Taylor has felt the same way?

GABLE: I started feeling that way in high school, but I’m not sure about Taylor. Cael Sanderson would know that. I knew that whatever I was going to do in life had to do with the sport of wrestling, and back then the only way you could continue to be involved financially was in coaching. Now there are more opportunities.

WIN:  Speaking of Sanderson, how should Taylor mimic Sanderson when it comes to winning like Cael has at Penn State?

GABLE: He should only mimic it in remembering there is a lot of tradition at Oklahoma State. Taylor does have an edge because he got a chance to see up close how Sanderson succeeded. Taylor has how own tradition of winning and consistency. 

You also have to look at geography and remember that Sanderson benefitted from coaching in a state like Pennsylvania, which has so much wrestling tradition all over the state. I’m not sure you can say the same thing about Oklahoma.

WIN: You were a great wrestler, who succeeded in bringing out the best in your wrestlers. What is the key for Taylor to have a similar story now that he is a coach?

GABLE: It’s the environment and the examples that shows the realities of what it takes. You also have to create those realities. He’s been around that at Penn State. He will know what that is. He has the edge there.