Layden calls it quitzz

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 29 1999 10:57 a.m. MST

Frank Layden made the move from New Orleans to Utah with the Jazz. He'd been GM, president and coach of both the Jazz and the Starzz.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

In the wee hours of most mornings, sometime between 7 and 7:30 or so, Frank Layden would walk onto the floor of the Delta Center.

The building would be silent, save for a few watchmen wandering the halls. He'd stand on the court — just him, a ball and a couple of baskets. What more does anyone need?

Nothing, really, but a mind with no bounds.

Layden has that.

"One time one of the guards said, "Hey, Coach, who are you playing with?' Because it's dark — no lights or anything," Layden said. "And I said, 'Pete Maravich.' "

Today, more than 20 years since he first joined the organization as general manager in 1979, there is lots more time for imaginary games with Pistol Pete, the late, great Jazz star who died way too soon: Layden, the Jazz president and former head coach, announced his retirement on Tuesday, closing an era that can only be called his own.

"He is a special person," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

"Really, truly, even with (franchise owner Larry Miller)," said the Jazz's star of today, Karl Malone, "Frank was that guy I associate the Jazz with more than anybody."

Layden has been off the Jazz bench and in the president's office for more than 10 years, having moved upstairs after resigning as coach and turning the team over to then-assistant Sloan on Dec. 9, 1988. Just as abruptly as he did that, the Brooklyn-born former high school coach called a halt to his career in pro basketball Tuesday - four days before the calendar reads 2000.

This, though, is actually something Layden has been pondering for about a year now.

He might have done it earlier, had his son, Scott, formerly the Jazz's vice president of basketball operations, not left the franchise this past offseason to take a similar job in the front office of the New York Knicks. And he almost certainly would have done it last week, had Tim Howells not chosen then to resign as general manager of the Jazz.

But by Monday it was time to tell Miller: There are more things to life than that which has consumed most of Layden's 67 years, and he's ready to delve headfirst into all of them.

"I don't think of myself as old mentally," he said, "but I also think it's time to move on."

It's not due to any health concerns, and it's not because he wants to slow down. In fact, Layden said, quite the opposite is the case on both counts.

"I don't look at it as quitting. I'm merely moving on to another stage in my life," he said. "There's other things I want to do that, right now, are just as important as basketball. And I thank the good Lord for giving me the health, and giving me the means, to be able to do it. You know, I'm able financially, because of basketball, to be able to retire and do some of the things I've been planning to do, like travel."

Or catch a stage show with his wife, Barbara. Perhaps even act some on his own, picking up where he left off with his part in a local theater company's production of "Love Letters."

There's that book to finish, the one that's darn-near done. Layton said he might even enroll in a class or two at the University of Utah. He may offer to help work with the NBA offices in New York, and will continue with his speaking engagements. And then there's the grandkids to see, both in Utah and New York.

So much to do. So little time.

"When you get to my age," he said, "time is precious.

"I didn't want to be like a lot of people I see: They work all their lives, and they finally retire, and then they're not able to either afford what they wanted to do, or health-wise they're not able to do them. And I didn't want that to happen. I've always thought of myself as a person who thinks young."

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