Frank Layden talks about saving the Utah Jazz and Jerry Sloan
On the Dominique Wilkins trade and how the Jazz survived
I was up at Jeremy Ranch and I got a phone call on a Saturday afternoon. A guy came out and said, “Hey, you’re wanted on the phone. It’s very important. It’s Mr. [Sam] Battistone.”
I rushed back in my car — I didn’t know whether it was an accident or something was wrong, but he told me that we couldn’t make the payroll on Monday, and that we had to come up with somewhere in the area of about a million dollars. And he was wondering — he was asking me could I think of a way to do it.
And the only thing I thought, the greatest asset we had was the No. 1 pick, and, in the draft. And I said, “Well” — I was already having discussions with the agent for Dominique Wilkins. And so I said, “Well, w–maybe, I don’t know. Maybe Atlanta would come up.”
And so, I called Ted Turner, and believe it or not, he was home. And I told him, I said, “Mr. Turner, I’m looking for a million dollars in cash. I gotta have it Monday, and it’s for the rights to Dominique Wilkins. There’s not any guarantee you’re gonna sign him. They, he doesn’t want to sign with us. He told his agents that he absolutely would not play in Salt Lake City.*”
So anyway, as it turned out, I got a call back from Stan Kasten, who now is the fellow that runs the Dodgers, and he said, “We can come up with a million bucks. But you have to take tw–couple players off our hands,” he said, “that are making a lot of money.”
One was Freeman Williams, who was a great All-American but didn’t cut it in the pros; had some problems, personal problems. And of course, the other one was Deuces — was John Drew…
When we got the money, we got a million and a half. Ted Turner told me, he says, “Son, whenever you ever need money and you’re desperate, never ask for exactly what you need.” He says, “Always ask for more,” and he sent a million and a half dollars.
* Dominique Wilkins: the original Derek Harper. Fitting that his career started with the Jazz and was ended by young hotshot and future Jazzman Matt Harpring.
On Jerry Sloan
Jerry brought [the Jazz] up a level. He raised the standards, you know? He made us much better than I thought we ever would really be…He was demanding. He was driving. He was never allowing guys to just say, “It’s good enough. I just wanna get by.”
And I’ll tell you [what], we got guys in the Hall of Fame right now, and I know they would feel the same way as I’m saying it right now, is they know that he got them there. He made them play up to the best they could be, and people out of a small market like this, took them right to the heights. …
Jerry’s very s–generous. I mean, if you go back to his hometown, McLeansboro, all right, you see the Sloans are all over the place. It’s a park. It’s a tree. It’s a, you know, part of the school. It’s, you know, he has given back more than enough, and you kn–I’ll tell you what, he tips, it’s 100 percent.
You know, I mean, you know, he’s that type of guy. No, he’s not a type that in any way is smug about his success. If anything, he’s humble about it, and he is one of the most generous men I know.
You know, every time the staff used to go out, Jerry would take everybody out to dinner after a game. We’d be on the road. He always picked up the tab. You know, and the other guys got their per diem and everything else, but Jerry insisted that, “Hey, listen, I know I make more money than everybody else here.” And he always [paid].
The other thing about Jerry, he wasn’t an excuse-maker. He didn’t blame no refs. He didn’t blame injuries. He didn’t blame people. You know, he said, “This is the cards we were dealt. We gave it everything we got. That’s all we can ask.” And I think that’s the way athletics should be played, should be coached, and the way we should accept it as fans.
Kenny Mauer once said Jerry is “one of the toughest, meanest guys that you’ll ever see. But he is fair.”
Questions would come up in league meetings about more pay for the refs, more, getting more refs so that they didn’t have to work so many games. Jerry was always in their corner, and I think that the referees respected him for that.
His fellow coaches — you know, a lot of them are, “Jerry’s mean. Jerry’s tough. Jerry’s that.” But I never saw any — I’ve never met a coach who said Jerry isn’t the best, you know, and they wouldn’t like to be like him, and have his standards. …
He’s gonna fight now, too, by the way. This game he’s in now isn’t over. I’ve been out with him, and he — Jerry’s gonna be fine, and we just gotta love him more, that’s all. (KSL)