Marvin “Corky” Taylor was recruited by the University of Minnesota in the early 1970s to play basketball (1970-1973). He was a three-year letter winner for the Gophers and a key member of the 1971-72 Big Ten Champions considered by many to be perhaps the greatest Gopher men’s basketball team in school history.
After graduation, Taylor made the Twin Cities his home and worked for the City of Minneapolis for over 30 years. He died June 28 from lung cancer at age 60.
Clyde Turner and Taylor were teammates, college roommates, and longtime close friends. “I’ve known Corky Taylor for 40 years,” says Turner. “I came to the university in 1971, and Corky ended up becoming my roommate. We got to know each other quite well in the next two years as roommates.
“We went through some hard times together, and some good times together,” continues Turner. “I got to know his family back in Detroit, and he got to know my family in Champaign, Illinois. Over the next 30-some years, we remained very good friends.
“I don’t think Corky had a mean bone in his body. He would protect his family and himself if he had a problem, but I think he was a gentle giant. He was a very smart man, and Corky was very helpful and very giving. He was very diligent and passionate about the things he did and got involved with.”
Both men remained in the area after graduation and dedicated their lives to serving others — Turner as a longtime social worker and now as executive director of Sabathani Community Center, and Taylor at the City of Minneapolis.
Turner says that other former Gophers who stayed here were a great influence upon him and Taylor. As a result, when both men embarked upon their respective post-basketball lives, “There would be a lot of opportunities and sectors we would be able to pursue depending on your education and your interest. We got good jobs and got involved in the community and raised [our] families.”
“I had the opportunity to get to know [Taylor] over the last five years,” said U of M Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tubby Smith of Taylor in a prepared statement. “He was as nice a man that I have met since coming to the University of Minnesota and certainly a Gopher through and through. He had been a mentor to many of our former players, and I know that helped tremendously in my transition here at the University of Minnesota.
“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to know him,” said Smith.
He was a hell of a person as well as a hell of a basketball player,” adds Ken Foxworth, a fellow Minnesota alumnus, on Taylor. “This man did more outside of basketball inside of Minneapolis City Hall. I’m very proud to say he was my friend.”
“I met Corky when he was a student at the University of Minnesota,” recalls Rene Pulley. “I remember meeting him, Clyde Turner and Ron Behagen when they all came to town. We became friends back then.”
Taylor’s illness surprised many. “I talked to Corky about a month ago,” says Pulley. “He sounded strong, but then he told me at that time that he wasn’t doing so well. Then I heard that they put him in a hospice.”
Prior to that, says Pulley, he last saw Taylor at a boys’ high school basketball game this past March. “I don’t think he knew he was sick at the time. For him to be gone four months later is a shock.”
“We are fragile human beings, and all of us can go at any time,” Turner points out. “Maybe it’s a wake-up call, because a lot of men don’t take care of themselves health-wise. Maybe it will make us go get a checkup and have more frequent visits to the doctor to keep ourselves informed of our bodies.
“Maybe Corky did us a favor,” surmises Turner. “But on the other hand, we’ve lost a great man who was a wonderful father — I watched the way he worked with his [two] sons over the years. I watched how he treated my kids like they were his own.”
Taylor and other members of the 1971-72 Gopher squad were formally honored this past season at Williams Arena. He is the first player from that team to die.
Funeral services were held Monday in Plymouth, Minnesota.
“I think that is making all of us really think twice about our lives, our families, and what we have,” says Turner. “It’s been tremendous to have had his friendship. We were like brothers. We challenged each other on our ideologies, on different subject matters, and that was cool. We could get into a heated debate, but we weren’t personalizing it. All along, he was an unconditional friend.”
“Corky was a friend of all of us in the community,” concludes Pulley. “He will be missed very much.”
— Obituary by Charles Hallman, [email protected]