Dean Taylor: Father, Ex-Police Officer, and Polarizing Coach

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Dean Taylor: Father, Ex-Police Officer, and Polarizing Coach

Daniel Rohr, Contributor

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Dean Taylor works on his 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass in his garage, surrounded by an array of almost perfectly representative objects. There is a basketball hoop in his front driveway, a photo of himself, his wife, and his three children on his workbench, his police badge framed on the wall, and a set of golf clubs in his trunk. Mr. Taylor is around 5’10” with a strong build, a clean shave, a surgically repaired right wrist, and an unforgettable smile.

Growing up in 1960’s San Francisco, Taylor described his upbringing as self-guided. He grew up in a home with no father, and a mother that had to work two jobs to keep the family afloat. During the 1960’s, San Francisco was an extremely blue-collar city, with over 40% of people working as hands-on laborers. He had to work hard to achieve his goal of getting into college. He attended San Francisco State University and shortly after, he became a member of the San Francisco Police Department.

Taylor stated, “the most difficult part of my childhood was growing up without a male role model.” So, when he became a father, Taylor wanted to make sure that he was as big of a part in his sons’ lives as he could be. This is where his journey into coaching began.

The first coaching role that Dean Taylor had was coaching his first son’s U6 soccer team. “It was an amazing experience having so many people look for guidance in me.” It was at this point that he knew he wanted to be a coach for as long as he could. He continued to coach throughout his three sons’ lives, from helping with soccer, basketball, baseball, and even fencing.

Currently, Dean Taylor coaches Varsity golf for girls and boys, and Junior Varsity basketball for boys. One main talking point about Taylor is his players’ attitudes towards him. For many athletes, the name Dean Taylor garners extreme responses. Many students’ thoughts towards Taylor either bring up positive memories or dark times.

For many, what makes Taylor so likable or unlikable is his intensity. “It could definitely rub people the wrong way, as it did for me,” remarked Daniel Ritthaler, a former JV basketball player. Killian Brait, who also played JV basketball under Taylor, noted that, “It was easy to see that some players could handle it, and some couldn’t. But there was a few times that I could remember that he crossed the line, and that really rubbed some players the wrong way.”

I was told of one incident in particular that led to bad blood between player and coach. During a home game of the 2017-18 year, SRHS JV boys had an extremely tight game against Novato. SR’s star player, Daniel Ritthaler, had the ball in his hands with the game on the line. As the clock found its way towards zero, Ritthaler crossed half court with the game in his hands:

Ten- Orders can be heard from Taylor commanding Ritthaler to drive to the basket.

Seven- Ritthaler is sizing up his opponent, waiting for the perfect opportunity to arise for a shot, Taylor can still be heard in the background telling him to drive.

Four- This is it, Ritthaler has the ball, the golden second has come. Taylor can still be heard, his voice now filling the gym more than the tension caused by the pressure of the game.

Two- Ritthaler attempts a step-back three against his coaches will… and airballs.

Zero- San Rafael loses the game by one point.

In the locker room, there was brief silence. As tired, sweaty bodies of teenage men flooded through the doors, everybody could feel what was to come.

A tirade of screams come from Taylor, all directly targeted for Ritthaler. “I know I had made the wrong choice, but the way he came at me after the game pissed me off.” For the rest of the season, there was tension between the two. However, Ritthaler did manage to see some positive from the occurrence. “After what happened, I busted my ass so that I could play varsity junior year, so I can’t say that the whole experience was negative.”

On the other hand, many student-athletes that have worked with Taylor love him for his openness and friendliness. Phoebe Johnson, a junior at SRHS, has had Taylor as a coach for three seasons, two for boys’ golf and one for girls’ golf. “He is by far the funniest coach I have ever had, and he’s always down to just talk.” This trust and likeness to Dean is not foreign to many of his players.

Sid Leipsic, a co-captain for San Rafael’s golf team, spoke highly of Taylor when I asked him about his coach. “I’ve had many coaches and I’ve played sports for probably 15 years now, and Dean is the most open and fun coach I’ve ever had.” He went on to say that Dean’s knowledge for the sport, along with his intensity, has made him a better athlete, and a better person. “Before I met Dean, I didn’t know how to manage my anger, and that affected me on the course, and in life in general.”

Dean Taylor is a classic coach archetype: some of his players despise him, and the others adore him. However, one thing is certain when someone plays under Dean- he leaves a lasting memory on his players. Figures like Dean Taylor help to guide student-athletes in the right path, learn how to handle situations, and learn from their mistakes. Without Dean Taylor, San Rafael High School would be a lesser place.