Basketball bonds: Gordon Hayward's father has helped the Jazz player during every step of his career
SALT LAKE CITY — In the disappointing aftermath of the Utah Jazz's season-ending loss at Memphis on April 17, Gordon Hayward's smartphone buzzed with a string of late-night texts.
Some messages included long-distance compliments.
Others offered constructive criticism from afar.
All were anticipated.
This particular flurry of feedback was sent from the familiar 317 area code of central Indiana, and more specifically from the phone of his all-time favorite coach — the shorter, older, wiser Gordon Hayward.
This wasn't an isolated occasion or merely an end-of-season exchange.
Gordon Scott Hayward, the father, has been giving Gordon Daniel Hayward, the son, some type of personal performance analysis since the younger one started playing basketball as a 4-year-old.
After every single game.
The postgame chats became a ritual about 15 years ago inside of a minivan — an old, two-tone tan and burgundy Mazda MPV that the younger Gordon remembers as being "boring."
That Hayward tradition even took on a name of its own: "Van Talk."
Circumstances have drastically changed, but the back-and-forth dialogue continues years later — just on mobile phones, not in a minivan.
This soul-to-cell interaction is one of many ways these Gordon Haywards remain tightly bonded even while the son's job keeps him hundreds or thousands of miles away from his family's home in Brownsburg, Ind., for eight months a year except for that one night each season when Utah visits Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"He's always been there for me," Gordon said of his father. "And I always appreciate him for that."
"He knows the game, and we're on the same page," the elder Hayward added. "We can have those kind of conversations and he can share his successes or his frustrations with me and I can relate to them, understand, and help him get through them."
That usually happens in eight to 20 text messages per game.
Thank heaven for unlimited data plans.
If you want to see a smile emerge on Gordon's youthful visage — or maybe watch his eyes well up with moist, salty love — just ask the 23-year-old about his mom and dad.
"They're the best parents in the world," he's quick to say.
And he means it.
Good luck finding a more supportive pair.
Before Gordon's NBA career, the Hayward parents, both of whom have full-time jobs, watched all of his basketball games in person, whether they were held in Brownsburg gyms, at Butler's famed Hinkle Fieldhouse or in foreign countries like New Zealand and Italy. Although they can't attend all 82 NBA games a season, the Haywards even went on a 2,300-mile driving expedition to Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, beginning and ending near Indianapolis, during a back-to-back-to-back Jazz road trip during the lockout-shortened season.
Whether she goes to his games or not, Gordon's mom, Jody Hayward, always sends him a thoughtful pregame text. Before hitting the pillow every night, she also sends Gordon and his twin sister, Heather, goodnight texts.
"We have a lot of traditions," Hayward's dad said.
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