In his first game as basketball coach at Montana, Blaine Taylor led the Grizzlies to a 78-39 win over Oregon on Nov. 22, 1991.

Six years later, Taylor was one of the finalists to replace Jerry Green as Oregon’s coach before Ernie Kent got the job. Two of Green’s assistant, Mark Turgeon and Bobby Braswell, were the others who interviewed for the job.

“They were really close to hiring me and I was really close to taking the job,” recalled Taylor, now an assistant at UC Irvine who is preparing the Anteaters (31-5) to face Oregon (24-12) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Taylor was the first basketball coach ever hired by Bill Moos when he became an athletic director at Montana and Moos contacted him again for the Oregon job.

“I interviewed with Bill in Salt Lake City,” Taylor said. “We had kind of agreed to do that and at the last minute, things twisted over to Ernie. I almost became a Duck at that time.”

Taylor coached at Montana until 1998 when he left to be an assistant under Mike Montgomery at Stanford for three seasons. Taylor was hired at Old Dominion in 2001 and won 239 games in 13 seasons.

He is in his third season with the Anteaters assisting Russell Turner, who is also a former Stanford assistant.

“I am kind of in charge of quality control,” Taylor said. “I look around and make sure things are going right, the right things are being said and done, and Russell counts on that.”

Once the NCAA brackets were unveiled, Taylor pointed out that the Anteaters had a similar record to Loyola last year when the Ramblers reached the Final Four. The coach joked that Loyola had Sister Jean, but the Anteaters have “Uncle Blaine”.

“So it was a play on words as a way to entertain the crowd, but Blaine is special for our team and our staff,” Turner said.