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Bits from Frank Layden Interviews

May 22, 2016
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Basketball should be fun
I’m scared to death, all right, of people who can’t smile, can’t laugh, and can’t have fun. And it took a while, by the way, for me to have that reach Larry Miller. He used to say, “What’s with all this kidding around? What’s all this fun? W–you know, what are you doing?”

And I used to say, “Hey, listen. This is supposed to be fun.”

(in high-pitched, agitated voice) “Well, losing’s not fun!” You know, he was so uptight he didn’t know how to have fun, and that’s not right.

Let me say one thing. If right now I was to take over the Jazz, all right, if I was back as president of the Jazz, you know what I would do? I would go to the front of the building. I’d tear down those pictures of those guys all scowling, and I’d put up pictures of a team that was smiling and laughing and having a good time.

I mean, what is this? Wha–you tell me the next time you see a picture anywhere, on these posts out here where they put up the picture of the players, or all around this building, and find one player we c–that smiles, or laughs.

Listen, I mean it. I mean, I, you know, what the heck, I, is this grim? I thought I was coming to a basketball game, you know?…It has to be fun, you know? I think the players will do whatever you allow them to do.

And I used to…when we took the team picture, as soon as everybody was lined up and the camera was ready, I’d say, “Hold it” — and this is the truth. I’d walk out, walk in front and say, “Anybody who’s not smiling can get the hell out of this picture. You gotta be happy around the Jazz.” And then I’d go back and get in position.

Here’s the Jazz’s team photo this year.

Players that can get the hell out of the picture: Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Jeff Withey, Trevor Booker, Joe Ingles, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum. The training staff is pretty much all good, but Mike Wells, Igor Kokoskov, Quin Snyder and Brad Jones are also in trouble.

On Scott Layden winning a ring with the Spurs
So now Scott goes with the Spurs. And it was, you know, he would, he was discouraged. He thought, you know, “I’d always be with the Jazz” and what have you.

And the w–and I often think, I mean, when I look at what’s happened recently, I always say, “Would Scott have made a difference in two games?” Who knows, you know? He might have. But anyway, with the idea that he went with that team, I said this is a great learning experience.

So, every time we’re there, and I, you know, I see R.C. [Buford] and I see, you know, the coach [Gregg] Popovich, Pop, they remind me, “Don’t forget, we modeled this after you. We modeled this after the Jazz.”

And they have made no secret about it. They’ll say, “Oh, we liked the way the Jazz did things. You know, we equated ourselves with the Jazz in size, buildings, philosophy, stuff like that. And the way they played the game.” …

So when Scott, at the end of that year, when he got the ring — and Scott is not, you know, he doesn’t, those kind of things aren’t important to him, really, you know? When he got the ring…I was very proud.

I was very proud, and I said, “Wow, that was hard, wasn’t it, for the Laydens to get a ring?” My gosh, you know, it was that hard just trying to get a college ring. And then to get an engagement ring. And I mean, there was a lot of suffer-ring.

But yeah, I was very proud of him. And what always makes me feel good…when I go to San Antonio and people say, “Wow. Hey, thanks a lot. Scott’s great. He’s really helping us.” You know, that makes me feel very, very good.

** Frank Layden never had a written contract with Larry Miller. There was only a handshake agreement in place and they never negotiated.

On the game then vs. the game today
When I came in the league — let’s go back to that — it was, Hubie Brown hired me because we were roommates and close friends back in college. But anyway, I went with him in Atlanta.

You know, at that time, it wasn’t unusual for several coaches in the league, including Red Auerbach and Red Holzman, to be by themselves. They didn’t even have one assistant, all right? It always amazes me…When I was coaching a team and a guy needed help with his shooting, I worked with him. You know, did I need another guy to do that? We only had 12 players…

I don’t quite understand why you call a timeout, and the staff — you know, five, six guys — meet away from the bench to discuss what you’re gonna talk about on the timeout. I used to ha–I used to think, I already know what I’m gonna talk about. That’s why I called timeout. I mean, I, yeah, but you know, this is the way they do it.

I’ll say this. The athletes today are bigger, better, stronger, faster. There’s not a doubt in the world about that. I’m not sure the game is better. Maybe we don’t give enough freedom to the players to exercise their skills and let them innovate themselves.

But who knows? I’m not gonna say it’s right, it’s wrong. I, it would confuse me. I’m not smart enough to look around and have 10 assistants. And somewhere along those assistants, all right, just like Jesus, you know, he had the Apostles, and they used to see him do miracles and doing, do all sorts of things. And yet, one betrayed him. Another doubted him.

I, you know, there’s too many guys. It’s too many guys to control. It’s enough to control the 12 players or 15 players, let alone 10 more coaches.

On the Golden State Warriors
One thing we overlook about that team, the Warriors, and why they can win even without [Steph] Curry, is that they know how to defend. They have a defensive scheme. It works.

[Steve Kerr] knows how to use his bench, all right? He does a good job of putting combinations together to attack the opposition. I just think he has a good feel for the game, and of course, you know, that for instance, Mark Jackson didn’t have. Mark Jackson had the same players and even said they were great shooters and great that.

It isn’t just being able to shoot. It isn’t, you know, you’ve gotta combine ball-handling, you’ve gotta combine positioning, you’ve gotta combine the pick and roll, the utilization of your big men, and knowing where to get the ball. (1280)

Yes, I transcribed that last bit just for the Mark Jackson part.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. russellkanning permalink
    May 23, 2016 10:15 am

    love Frank

  2. Paul Johnson permalink
    May 23, 2016 12:25 pm

    You can tell Frank is still a Jazz man through and through by the fact that he called out Mark Jackson–he had to know that would thoroughly please Jazz fans.

  3. Paul Johnson permalink
    May 23, 2016 1:17 pm

    I’ve had two random interactions with Frank Layden over the years, which corroborate the fact that he is a very fun, friendly person in real life, just as he comes across in the interview above.

    The first time was when I was at Granatos restaurant on 3rd West and 1300+ South in Salt Lake City one day at lunch time, buying a sandwich (if you remember, Frank used to do a commercial for Granatos restaurant years ago where he said in his gravel-y-sounding voice, “Granatos, the best Italian food west of the Mississippi”). I was standing in line to order my sandwich, and no one else was in the restaurant. Frank Layden just happened to walk into the room to order a sandwich, as well. He could have ignored me, but instead, he went out of his way to be friendly and ask me how I was doing. I told him I had to be doing pretty well to be able to be at Granatos ordering a sandwich–and he laughed and agreed with me.

    The second time was when I was at a Jazz basketball game (I think in the 2010-2011 season). My wife had been given her company tickets for that game, which were on Row B (which is the 2nd row up from the floor, on the northwest side of the basketball floor), seats 1-4 for the middle section (which are one row up and across the aisle from where Gail Miller sits). Since they are VIP seats, before the game, we got to go down into the basement of the arena to have a pre-game dinner. My wife didn’t go, because she thinks it’s too embarrassing to go to a Jazz basketball game with me, because I like to yell at the refs and such, so I went to the game with my 12-year old son and his friend, and my 8-year old daughter.. Being the mature person that I was at that time, I made a goofy sign to hold up at the game that said “KF-44 the Ukranian Assault Weapon” (referring to Kyrylo Fesenko, my favorite Jazz player at the time). I had the sign with me when we went down to eat dinner, and I set it down against our table as I was eating dinner (with the blank side facing out from the table so you couldn’t see what it said). It just so happened that Frank Layden was sitting and eating at the table right next to ours with an older couple and another friend. I noticed him, but was trying to mind my own business and not bother him. However, he saw my sign, and in a friendly way asked me what my sign said, so I showed him. He thought it was funny and laughed. He could have just ignored me and gone about his business, because I was trying very hard not to intrude upon him and his guests, but I don’t think that’s how Frank Layden is. He is so unassuming and friendly in real life, just like he comes across on TV.

    I am just a random Jazz fan–nothing special about me–but both times I had a random interaction with Frank Layden, he was so friendly and kind–and showed a real sense of humor and fun.

    • May 23, 2016 5:59 pm

      I love every bit of this. I love your interactions with Frank. I love why your wife was too embarrassed to go to a game with you. And I love that Fes was your favorite player.


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