Layden calls it quitzz

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 29 1999 12:00 a.m. MST

And he's always been someone thought of highly by those around him, including Miller. The franchise has no plans to name a new president, because Miller said, "I don't think you can replace him.

"We knew we had to replace Scott (Layden) with a person with like skills, and Kevin O'Connor has been, I think, an extremely good choice for us," Miller said. "With Tim (Howells), it's a similar consideration - where the job is fairly structured, and you need certain skills.

"With Frank, it's a different thing. Because Frank was not just a figurehead by any stretch. Anybody who thinks that doesn't recognize his personal dimension and his value to the team. His contact base, his whole personal approach to philanthropy ... was so good, and sometimes, publicly, because of the nature of what happened, he never sought the spotlight on this. But way more often, from behind the scenes, he would direct us: 'Be aware of this situation, somebody needs to do something here, we can do something to help here.' Sometimes little things, sometimes big."

Perhaps nothing (except for the 360 pounds he once carried, something he joked about Tuesday) was bigger than what Layden did for the Jazz early in his career here, at a time when the organization was floundering financially.

"I'm not sure we'd all be here if it wasn't for him," longtime Jazz publicist Kim Turner said.

"I was here when the thing wasn't going too good," said Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson, who went to work for Layden in 1982. "(Center) Mark Eaton was a fourth-round draft choice, and we had to sell Dominique Wilkins for Freeman Williams, John Drew and a million dollars."

The deal, orchestrated by GM Layden in September of '82, provided the franchise with enough working capital to keep it afloat.

Along the way, many saw Layden as the man responsible for some rather smooth sailing.

"His whole mentality was to market the Jazz, to get that name out there for the Jazz," Malone said. "Not for Frank Layden, but for the Jazz."

By the end, Layden went from coach to captain of a rather proud vessel. Even he, though, admits much of the hard work has been done by others in the recent past.

"Everybody knows: First of all, I don't have the passion that I used to have," he said. "I used to get up in the morning, and all I thought about was the Jazz and the job. And I'm starting to think more and more about other things in my life."

But there are also some things he will never forget, and those include his experiences in a career that started first as coach of a freshman high school basketball team in Long Island, N.Y., and later as coach of varsity team at Seton Hall High School.

"The most productive time, probably, was coaching high school," he said. "I really felt like I was having an impact on young people, and that was an important part of my life."

Preps, in fact, are responsible for what Layden called the toughest loss of his career: "To Cathedral High School, when we went undefeated and were one of the highest scoring teams in the history of high school basketball. The way they did it in Long Island, they had the top team play the last-place team in the first round of the brackets for the Catholic school championships. And Cathedral High School was a seminary school, and these young future priests beat the heck out of us on a Sunday afternoon. I should have known I was in trouble then."

Instead Layden went on to coach in college, including a stint at his alma mater, Niagara (N.Y.) University, and in the NBA, with both the Atlanta Hawks (as an assistant coach) and the Jazz.

It was in Utah, to where the Jazz moved from New Orleans shortly after Layden joined the organization, that he gathered some of his fondest memories:

  • "I remember the first game I coached, and we beat Kansas City (122-102, on Dec. 11, 1981). That was an exciting night."

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