Want more Frank Layden? You got it.
On the state of professional sports, and the Utah Jazz
Professional sports [has] a lack of loyalty on behalf of the com–of the team to the community, the demands they make on these communities, and also the prices of the tickets. You know, it’s a partnership.
You got the owners, who are making an investment and run the risk of losing it, though it’s not likely anymore. If your team is not drawing, not making money, you certainly can sell the team and redeem more than your losses. You know, when a team like the Clippers sell for, what, $3 billion or something? Come on. You know, you can buy a battleship for that.
So, you know, it’s, it worries me that the second rung of the partnership is the players, and they deserve that. They’re the entertainers. We need th–very few of them put people in their place, though. I mean, I would pay to see [Stephen] Curry. You know, I’d like to go see him, but I’d also pay a lot of money to go see the play “Hamilton,” you know, or “The Book of Mormon.”…
But you only have to see it once. You know, [with baseball], you gotta go through, you know, whatever they play, 180 games. You know, and they would play more — they’d be like the Harlem Globetrotters if they league didn’t have a, the players didn’t have a union. But anyway, you got the players, who are making a lot of money. A lot of money, all right? They’re part of the 1 percent.
And then of course, you have the fans. And the fans are hungry for happiness. They’re happy for hope. You know, I went out with some Jazz officials yesterday, and I said to them, “What you’re selling is not basketball games. You’re selling hope.” …
I think it’s important that you go [to games] and you have a good time, but we’re buying hope and we don’t want to spend more money, all right, if we’re gonna pay the coaches millions of dollars, and that is gonna come back to me and how much money I have to spend to see the Jazz or see the Utes or whatever it is.
I want results. I buy hope, and that’s what they’re selling. They’re selling hope. How about the Jazz? It’s not like the Jazz — are we happy to make the playoffs? We fired that, what’s his name, a couple of years ago. Tyrone [Corbin] — and we haven’t moved up. We’re in the same spot. You know, it’s unbelievable, you know?
On players thinking they know better than their coaches, and Pat Riley
[Magic Johnson] got rid of the coach they had. Paul Westhead. I don’t — and it happened here, by the way. Did you ever know that? It was after one of our games.
But I don’t know if he got — I think he liked the idea of Pat Riley because Pat Riley was “dumb.” He hadn’t coached before, so he could put him over here. And he didn’t know Pat Riley was a very good student and he studied the game.
I remember being at a dinner in Long Beach — Santa Barbara, and Pat Riley coming to me afterwards and saying, “How did you get that technique of speaking?” I was the main speaker.
And I said, “I don’t know. I just did it through the years and what have you.”
And he said, “I–” and you know what he did? He went to USC and he took public speaking. He went back to school. He admitted that he didn’t know how to stand in front of people and speak. Now he gets $50,000 a shot…
He admitted he had a problem. He even said to Hubie Brown — he flew Hubie Brown in to spend time with him. He said, “I’ve never coached in my life. Tell me about coaching.” And Hubie Brown — with Dick Motta and [Jack] Ramsey and Jerry Sloan are probably one of the great coaches of all time; Hall of Famer — and worked with him.
And [Riley] was a quick study, and he became a good coach. And when he did, what happened? Magic Johnson became a better player.
On the player he would’ve loved to have coached, and what the Jazz are missing
I would’ve loved to had Dr. J[ulius Erving]. I tried to get him. I brought him here. We had dinner at Larry [H. Miller]’s house. We offered him a big contract, when he was right near the end.
I convinced Larry — I said, “Listen. This is not the Dr. J that they saw in the ABA. He’s at the, he’s probably, maybe he’s done already, but he will have an influence on our team that will be very, very important. And I want to have him. I think we’re on the brink now of just becoming pretty good, and if this guy brings his work ethic to us…”
I’ll never forget this. How many players do this? Dr. J used to call ahead and say, “How can I help you sell tickets? You have a luncheon I can go to or do something like that?” Yeah, the guy, so smart, and I would’ve loved to have a chance to coach him and have him on our team.
I think — and I’m not, maybe — I’m a fan, so I have a right to do the thing. I don’t get free tickets; I don’t ask for free tickets. But I think this is what’s missing from the Jazz. There’s no older heads there.
There’s no Billy Paultzes. Billy Paultz, huh? People — was he that good? Eighteen years in the league, 18 playoff teams. You know, he never was on a team that wasn’t in the playoffs. And so, you know, Rich Kelley, you know, coming off the bench. You know, I think they need some older players who can balance [the team]…
I think that besides having balance in who your players are — you can’t have all forwards; you can’t have all guards; you can’t have all centers — but you can’t have all youth, either. You can’t have [all] young players, because they may all grow old together. What you have to have is balance.
And I think it’s always good to have a couple of guys on the bench who have been there, who know what it’s like to be in the playoffs, that know what it’s like to — you know, I mean, if we look at, say, for instance, the Jazz staff, all right?
Same thing: inexperience. They’re growing, and the team’s growing. I think they should have a nice 60-year-old assistant coach there. Look at [Gregg] Popovich. You know who his assistant coach is? The guy from Italy, sits next to him. He’s known as the Johnny Wooden of Italy…I think there’s nothing like old heads…I remember me. I always felt good, because I had Jerry Sloan.
Where Are They Now: David Stern
David Stern and I were not only professionally linked, but we consider ourselves good friends. I’ll tell you how good. He called me up about six months before he announced his retirement, and he said, “Frank, I’m retiring, and I know you retired. You seem to be very happy. What advice can you give me?”
You know, and here’s a guy who, you know, he’s on the board of directors, the trustees at Columbia University, you know? I have Columbia insurance. So anyway, he’s, you know, he is a very smart guy, and I told him, I said, “You gotta have a game plan. You gotta ha–you can’t play golf every day.” You know, and, well, he plays tennis. “You can’t play tennis every day. You’re thinking at first you can, but then you’ll look for other things.”
I said, “Put down what you want to do. You’re, you know, whatever it is, travel, and see, share it with your wife.”
You know, and he’s, he took it very serious, and a year later, he said, “I found what I have to do.” And this is interesting. He lives up in Greenwich, Connecticut. He said, “I went down into Manhattan.” He said, “I found an office. I hired my old secretary from the NBA back,” he said, “and I opened a business.”
He said, “I miss getting up in the morning, getting dressed, and taking the train down to New York, or taking a limo down to New York.” He said, “And so, I’ve opened a consulting business.” He said, “I work as long as I want. I own the business. I don’t answer to anyone,” he said, “but this is what I want to do.”
On the scam he and Hubie Brown used to run in the dorm
We were roommates in college, and we were always arguing, arguing about baseball. And we used to run a little scam, all right? Probably the NCAA would arrest us if we do it now.
But we used — during the World Series, we used to go around, particularly to where the seniors were, and go to the dorms, and collect money, all right, from them. And what you did was, if you had bet a dollar — it was a dollar bet, ok? If you bet five dollars, you could win six dollars, and this is what you had to do. Think about this.
You had to pick three players who would get six hits in the World Ser–in any game. We do it game by game, and you could take any player on either of the teams. You’d say, “Yeah, that sounds pretty easy, huh?” I mean, yeah. Three players that get six hits…
[You get low-percentage hitters who light it up], or you get guys who, you know, are great hitters but don’t hit in the World Ser–or they hit, oh, they’re out. You know, one guy gets 2-4. The other guy gets 1-3. The other guy gets 1-4. You know, so you end up with four hits instead of six. Six is hard to get. So, Hubie and I made a little money doing that.
What one suggestion would you give to Adam Silver to make the game better?
The game’s too long, all right? But they want to sell beer. So they play for three hours, four hours if they could, all right?
The game’s too long. The season’s too long. I think [the season should be] two halves with a break in the middle to let the players pull themselves together.
Part of the, of this [Finals] series that we have right now is, we are looking at two fatigued teams who were in the playoffs last year, played all the way into June, you know? Then they make personal appearances and every–they come back into the season…
I would suggest that they shorten the season and maybe even shorten the games. I don’t know. I think the fans would get better. The year that we had the shortened season, the quality of play went up and the cost to the fans was a lot less…
Pat Riley and I had a suggestion about [making up the difference in revenues with a shortened season]. We said, let’s have a season that starts, and we play 30 games, all right, until the middle of December.
Then, we take the top teams in the East, all right, and we take — we take eight of the, eight teams in the East, or six, all right, and we take six or eight teams in the West, and we have — to make up this money, because Christmastime is the downtime in the NBA, all right? They try to build it up with the Christmas Day games and every–people are spending their money in other places…
And then what I’d do is, during that time, play a tournament. A Christmas tournament between the East and the West, eight teams on–or six teams on each side; if you want six or eight, it doesn’t matter. Have good prizes, like Mercedes Benzes to the winning team. You know, to each player. That would be nothing. You know, give each player a Mercedes Benz who wins the championship.
And then, the other teams could practice, and train, and scrimmage with each other, and get themselves better, and then start a second half — little minor leagues used to do that — and start the second half of the season. Thirty games; Christmas tournament; 30 more games, all right, and it would shorten the season, and there’s, when the NCAA Final Four, basketball fever, March Madness ends, the playoffs start the next day. (KALL)