OSU booster Boone Pickens is living the suite life

By Jenni Carlson, Staff Writer Modified: October 5, 2009 at 8:41 am •  Published: October 4, 2009
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ge bowls of popcorn and mini candy bars sit on a heavy, low-slung wood table surrounded by four cushy black leather chairs. And on the side serving area with the cutout basin perfect for icing sodas, wooden bowls overflow with dried fruit, trail mix and nuts.

Dinner — prime rib, au gratin potatoes and lemon bars — comes later.

Holder pops in to check on things. Over the next hour or so, the flow of visitors never stops. Fellow donor Greg Casillas comes to say hello. So does OSU president Burns Hargis.

"It’s a beautiful stadium,” a visitor from Grambling State says as Pickens and Hargis stand just outside the suite chatting.

"Yes, it is,” Pickens says.

"It’s his,” Hargis says.

"Haven’t missed a payment,” Pickens says without hesitation.

Pickens is proud but not content. He sees the work that remains. He focuses on what he can do. What happens on the field might be out of his control, for example, but the playing surface itself isn’t.

"We’re going to have to do that field again,” Pickens says, nodding toward the middle of the turf. "That OSU is fading pretty fast.”

He wants only the best for his school, but he only worries about what he can control. That means he doesn’t get nervous before games.

He doesn’t have time.

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The sounds of kickoff blast through the open windows. The bass pounds. The PA blares. The stadium rocks.

Pickens is locked in conversation in the president’s suite next door and doesn’t notice the kick off.

That wasn’t the case a few weeks back when Georgia came to town. Interrupt Pickens that day, and you did so at your own peril.

Against Grambling, though, the orange leather seat in the front row of Pickens’ suite is empty much of the day. When Pickens is there, he is subdued. No clapping. No fist pumping. No high fiving.

Perhaps he’s conserving energy; much of the time, he is on his feet meeting and greeting.

Right before halftime, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden pay a visit to Pickens’ suite. The Thunder stars shake hands with Pickens and his wife, who asks where each player went to college.

When it’s Durant’s turn, Pickens jumps in.

"You went to Texas A&M,” he deadpans.

"No, I went to Texas.”

"I know where you went.”

At halftime, there are more guests. Malone Mitchell, the founder of what is now SandRidge Energy. U.S. Representative Mary Fallin. Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry.

Then as Pickens stands outside his door signing a few autographs, a barrel-chested man wearing a backward baseball cap approaches.

"Mr. Pickens,” he says, "Garth Brooks.”

The country music star extends his hand.

"You remember Tricia?” he says.

Brooks’ wife, Tricia Yearwood, extends her hand.

As they head into the suite, Pickens is stopped by a man who grew up in Holdenville. When he finds out that the man and his friends are from his hometown, he invites all of them into his suite.

Pickens knows none of them, but just like Brooks and Yearwood, they are welcomed.

Henry watches Pickens chat with the Holdenville folks and the Nashville stars.

"He is just so great,” the governor says.

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Time remains in OSU’s rout of Grambling, but like many other Cowboy fans, the Pickens party decides to head out.

Who decides it, though, isn’t exactly clear.

"I think I’m leaving,” Boone Pickens says.

Easier said than done.

"This is the worst part,” Pickens’ publicist and right-hand man Jay Rosser said.

That’s because getting Pickens and his posse from the suite to the private bus waiting on the far side of Gallagher-Iba Arena is like herding cats. There are hands to shake and backs to pat and goodbyes to say, but eventually, Pickens emerges in the parking lot. Madeline is by his side. So are grandson Michael and two of his buddies, friends Tom and Janie Cundy as well as Rosser and his daughter, Kimberly.

They board the dimly lit bus for the quick trip to the airport.

Pickens leans back and yawns.

"What part of the game was it when we left?” he asks.

"Fourth quarter,” his grandson says, then finds the final score on his phone — OSU 56, Grambling 6.

Pickens nods his approval.

He says little during the ride, listening to the stories, jokes and the laughter.

When they arrive at the airport, it is dark and nearly deserted. Pickens is only a couple first downs’ distance from his jet — it gets the spot closest to the door — and it isn’t long before he climbs the carpeted steps, settles back into his chair and closes his eyes.

It was a good day.