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.
“What was that?” Taylor asked him, and Collison pointed to a metal grated panel just behind the door.
“He had slammed his hands into it, it was real loud. Later, he told me he would warn me when he was going to do that,” Taylor said, laughing. “Sure enough, he still tells me every game, ‘Dean, I'm not going to do that tonight.'”
While hundreds of other guards and personnel check the bags of fans entering the arena and scour inside and out for potential threats, Taylor fends off the media.
Reporters will do anything for access to the players and coaches, but most of them are handled with ease by Taylor and the other guards outside the locker room hallway. A uniformed police officer, who is armed, stands by in case of a more aggressive confrontation.
“I don't care who you are, if you don't have credentials you're not getting in,” he said.
Working the NBA Finals for the first time has been a unique experience because while everything is different, it's still very much the same. There's more activity, more people moving around — especially reporters — but the job really is the same as it ever was.
As much as he loves it, Taylor said he hoped Thursday's game would be his last of the season.
“I hope we win by 30 tonight and close it out down there (in Miami),” he said. “As soon as we can win it I want to win it, it has nothing to do with another day of work.”