Bristol's Taylor remembered as heart of Tilghman sports
Brett Larimer, Taylor's color commentator for the past seven years, said everyone - including himself - is still in shock. The duo had recently returned from a tournament trip to Louisville for some Paducah Tilghman boys basketball coverage through the Christmas break, and the plan was to regroup next week and assess the schedule ahead.
Now, Taylor is gone.
Gleaning back on his radio start, Larimer laughed and admitted he had no experience in broadcasting when former Bristol GM Gary Morse paired the duo together those several years ago.
But Taylor assuaged those initial fears with some comforting words for Larimer, who likened his relationship with Taylor as more of a "father-son" combination.
"He said 'this is what you need to do: just act like you and I are having a conversation,'" Larimer remembered. "'Act like it's just between us.'
"That's my most lasting memory."
Larimer isn't the only radio personality who found knowledge and friendship with Taylor over the years. WCBL's Jeff Waters (Marshall County) and Bristol's Eric Chumbler (McCracken County) and Joe Jackson (Graves County) commonly referred to Taylor as "The Commissioner" and often mused as a group that Taylor would outlive them all.
Waters noted that no matter where Taylor went, he had hundreds and hundreds of friends, while faculty, staff and students of rival schools had little trouble striking up conversation with the highly knowledgeable voice of Tilghman.
"He was always ready to talk and have a conversation," Waters added. "He had such quick wit, and he'd make you smile and make you laugh."
But it wasn't just the laughs for Jackson, who gleaned that he probably wouldn't be in broadcasting had it not been for growing up with Taylor's voice pumping through radio while growing up in Livingston County.
The same goes for Chumbler, who - like Jackson - has tried to model Taylor's "unapologetic" and "unwavering" style of local journalism with his own Mustang and Lady Mustang coverage. And like many, Chumbler grew up in Lone Oak listening to the radio and gleaning things from Taylor every step of the way.
"He always told me to tell it like it is and to be unwavering and unapologetic toward your school," Chumbler said. "And to apologize to no one for it."
The heart of Tilghman
Back in the late '90s and at the behest of former Paducah Public Schools board chairman Bobby Jones, current Tilghman principal Art Davis spent considerable time trying to recruit Taylor to return to his roots and call Blue Tornado sports once more.
It didn't take much convincing. Taylor loved Paducah Tilghman unequivocally, unabashed and unbridled. If he didn't like what he saw from Tilghman athletes, he said it, but if others didn't like what they saw, he defended it and gave it reason. He was all-knowing.
"He was such a positive person, and he loved this school," Davis said. "He was in here four days a week. Whether it was football or basketball or baseball, he was a student of sports. He loved the game."
Former Tilghman boys basketball coach Brad Stieg developed a close relationship with Taylor over his coaching tenure, and added he had the hardest time telling him that he was relinquishing his coaching duties and moving into administration. After 15 years, the two had formed a special bond that developed under Taylor's utmost care for Tilghman sports.
"Neither of us had a lot of family," Stieg added. "We did postgame. We did pregame. He was always around, and that just shows you the kind of impact he had. He was a father and grandfather figure. He would do anything for you, and with him always around, you would just grow closer and closer to him.
"Things are definitely not going to be the same."
First-year Tilghman boys basketball coach Rod Thomas knows it won't be the same, especially when he looks to the sideline and notices something is missing.
Already dealing with one season roadblock following injuries to player TayShawn Carruthers, Thomas added it will be a considerable challenge not seeing Taylor around anymore. More than just a radio voice, he often participated in team-bonding events, visited practices and was a family presence for Paducah Tilghman.
He was instrumental in creating radio coverage for Lady Tornado basketball, something Thomas was a big part of as head coach from 2011-15.
But most importantly, Thomas said his biggest takeaway from Taylor's life came two weeks ago, when the two shared a conversation about his return from a stroke and how he hadn't missed a game since.
"I have a job to do - rain, sleet or snow - I have a job to do," Thomas said. "I have committed to the job at hand.
"And if Mr. Taylor can be this committed to Paducah Tilghman, then so can I."