UC Irvine head basketball coach Russell Turner has completed his staff with the hiring of three new members this summer.
Blaine Taylor has been named an assistant coach, James Blake director of operations and Pat Flesher director of administration.
Ryan Badrtalei, the veteran member of the Anteater staff, returns for his eighth season as an assistant coach and his 12th overall with the program, while Michael Wilder, who has served as the basketball program’s director of administration the past two years, has been promoted to assistant coach.
“I’m excited for Mike Wilder that he can move into an assistant coaching position, and there is no better representative of UC Irvine and our program than Mike,” Turner said. “His combination of work ethic, intelligence, connection to this community, and charisma make him the perfect fit for his new position, and I know he will continue to make our program and team better.”
Taylor has been a highly-successful head coach at Montana and Old Dominion, leading those programs to a combined 380 wins and 11 postseason appearances in 19 seasons. He won 141 games in seven years at Montana from 1991-98 and recorded 239 victories in 12 seasons with Old Dominion (2001-2013), including an NCAA Tournament first-round win over Notre Dame in 2010. He is the winningest coach in Old Dominion history.
A 1981 graduate of Montana, Taylor served as an assistant coach at Stanford under Mike Montgomery from 1998-2001 as the Cardinal reached the NCAA Tournament each of those three seasons.
“Blaine and I previously worked together and I saw up close all the elements he adds to our staff as an assistant coach,” said Turner. “His experience is outstanding and I will draw from the knowledge he brings to the job in many ways. And few people are as easy to laugh as Blaine, so I look forward to his transition into our program and community.”
Taylor and Wilder fill the vacancies created by the departures of Ali Ton and Nick Booker, who joined the staffs at Fordham University and Davidson College, respectively. Both were members of the UCI staff for the past six years, including the last four when the Anteaters earned postseason appearances and the program’s first trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament in 2015.
“I am happy for Ali and Nick and their families that they can advance their careers after all we have accomplished together,” Turner said. “They both have made great impacts in their time here at UCI and I truly appreciate their dedication and excellent work. They have both been with us here since I started at UCI, so I am thankful for the continuity we have had as a staff and for the fact that both Ali and Nick made us better. We will miss Elizabeth, Leyla and Kaya Ton and Jamilla, Philip, Caleb, and Ella Booker!”
Blake assumes the director of operations position at UCI, replacing Ryan Schlaich, who left after three years with the Anteaters to pursue other interests.
“In the three years that Ryan was here at UCI, we won a championship each season,” said Turner. “He is a great worker and his abilities allowed our staff and program to flourish. I am happy for Ryan and his wife, Samantha, as they move on to the next phase of his professional career and their personal life. We will miss them.”
Blake served as head coach from 2010-15 at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. His team led NCAA Division II in four categories in the 2014-15 season, including scoring at 104.2 points per game.
Blake was associate head coach at Columbia College in 2009-10 after serving as an assistant coach in the Big West Conference at CSUN from 2007-09. He was associate head coach at Cal State Stanislaus from 2005-07, an assistant at Idaho State in 2004-05 and the University of Victoria, his alma mater, from 2002- 04.
“James also brings a great variety of experience to his position on our staff,” said Turner. “He is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, he’s been a championship assistant coach in the Big West, and he was a head coach himself prior to coming on board, so we are excited for what James adds to our staff’s mix. James and his wife, Maria, and their daughter, Lyla, will be great additions to the Irvine community.”
Flesher joins the UCI staff as director of administration after serving the past three years at UNC Greensboro, including the last two as director of operations.
He was head manager at Pepperdine for four years and earned his bachelor’s degree in 2013.
“Pat returns to the West Coast in a role he mastered the past three years in North Carolina,” Turner said. “The recommendations I received about Pat’s work and character were outstanding, and I am thrilled that he has made the move to join us. Pat and I will work closely together in many areas that directly impact the priorities of our program, and I am excited to draw from his experience as we continue to improve. We welcome Pat and his wife, Brooke, to the UCI Basketball family.”