Calais native Chris Taylor sees similarities between his upbringing in Washington County and his work with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers organization in the nine years since he joined the franchise as a basketball operations assistant.
“Our core values here are called the three T’s — togetherness, toughness and trust — and I think I fit in culturally with that,” said the 32-year-old Taylor from his Indianapolis office this week after being promoted to general manager of the Pacers’ NBA G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
“I’ve talked over the years with other friends around the league who have Maine roots, and obviously when I go back home to Calais, about how there’s a certain toughness that comes with growing up Down East.”
Taylor is beginning his fifth season with the Mad Ants, having previously served as the team’s assistant general manager and director of basketball operations.
“Chris is someone that our organization has held in high regard for a while now,” Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan said. “His humble and hard-working personality while learning under [former Mad Ants GM] Brian Levy has helped mold him into a talented front office executive who we believe can help take the Mad Ants to the next level.”
Levy has been promoted to a pro scout position with the Pacers after six seasons as the Mad Ants general manager.
“I am fortunate to have learned from some of the best in this business, and the guidance and tutelage Brian Levy has provided over these past few seasons as his assistant GM epitomizes that,” Taylor said.
“I’m an open book trying to learn as much as I can from everyone who works here, and that’s never changed since I got my intern badge in 2012.”
Taylor returned to Indiana last weekend to prepare for the G League draft on Oct. 23 and the start of the Mad Ants’ preseason training camp two days later.
“Everything in the past has been in more of a support role and now I’m the one making the decisions or at least communicating with the Pacers directly to make those decisions,” said Taylor, who now manages everything from hiring staff to constructing the soter and budget.
“It’s final approval, which is great, but probably most exciting from a players’ standpoint is roster management. That’s the biggest change.”
Basketball has always been a big part of Taylor’s life, beginning in his hometown where the 2007 Calais High School graduate played on undefeated Class C state championship basketball teams in 2006 and 2007 that won 44 consecutive games under coach Ed Leeman.
He went on to study and play basketball at Emerson College, and his time at the Boston school led to summer jobs beginning in 2008 with the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
After graduating from college he spent a year working for the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ NBA G League affiliate in Portland now known as the Maine Celtics.
Then Taylor used a connection with Brunswick native and Pacers’ head strength and conditioning coach Shawn Windle to reach out to the team’s executive vice president for basketball, Peter Dinwiddie.
That led to an internship with the Pacers that began just before the 2012 NBA draft. Taylor has been affiliated with the organization ever since.
“I’ve been fortunate to be with a team with such a strong culture,” Taylor said. “I’m just amazed with how much of a cultural fit I’ve been with the team in looking back at the different positions I’ve held and how incredibly generous they’ve been in allowing me to continue to climb the ladder little by little.”
One significant change for the G League team Taylor will guide this winter is that the Mad Ants have relocated their operations from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis, where the Pacers have a multi-million dollar training facility.
“Player development-wise it just makes more sense,” he said. “You have more resources so if someone is rehabbing in the NBA they can go practice with the G League team. It makes more sense for two-way players, too, where if you’re in close proximity to both then you can bounce back and forth a lot easier from the NBA club to the G League club.”
The team will play nine home games on the Pacers’ home court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and 15 home games two hours away in Fort Wayne to coincide with the Mad Ants’ 15th-anniversary season.
“That’s an incredibly easy trip for me,” Taylor said. “That’s going from Calais to Bangor like we did multiple times a week growing up.”