Oklahoma City basketball fans speculate about Kendrick Perkins' scowl, but Dean Taylor will guarantee you that's just his game face.
Standing guard outside the home team's locker room in Chesapeake Energy Arena since before even the Thunder played here, the 71-year-old Shriner finds it hard not to get close to the team.
“They are a bunch of really, really nice men — all of them,” he said several hours before tipoff of Game 2. “You see them out on the court, like Perk with his scowl, but really he's just a teddy bear.”
Taylor was retired from his 37-year career as a budget and financial analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration in Oklahoma City when he got the job standing guard at the Peake.
He doesn't carry a gun, makes about minimum wage and works a 16-hour shift on game days, often staying past midnight.
“Until my last player or coach is gone I can't leave,” he said. “It's just kind of a part-time thing. They do have concerts and stuff, too, but I don't work all those.”
Taylor missed one home game since the first season. The players gave him hell, he said, and he won't let it happen again. Just 30 or so yards from courtside, he's never watched a game live.
“We watch it on a monitor,” he said, and pointed at a flat-screen mounted to the side of the arena wall. “So we can tell when it's getting close to game time, or if I have a player injured or ejected or something like that. We'll be aware of what's going on.”
During away games, he said, he “pleads to the TV” at home.
A favorite story of Taylor's was when a “terrible noise” came from behind the closed locker room door late into the night after a game, more than likely a loss. Nick Collison pushed open the door and headed out into the arena hallway.