Basketball bonds: Gordon Hayward's father has helped the Jazz player during every step of his career
The more traditions, the more ways to stay close together as a family, which is of utmost importance to parents who've done everything they possibly can to raise their children to be good Christians.
"As a parent or as a coach, you feel like you do all you can do," Hayward said. "After that, it's in God's hands. You've done your job."
Fortunately for Gordon, his dad isn't quite ready to fully turn the job over to The Big Coach Upstairs just yet.
Technology has helped the Haywards evolve with an ever-changing lifestyle and adapt when distances come between them, allowing traditions like "Van Talk" to continue. The 5-foot-10 Hayward, who swam, played tennis and baseball at Brownsburg in his high school days, feels it's his responsibility and privilege to continue doing his job of helping his only boy succeed even though he's a mature pro and not a peewee player.
Whenever he can watch Jazz games — after a busy day loaded with duties as a full-time software engineer and part-time assistant coach — Hayward types down thoughts and analysis as the action goes on. He then fires off the observation-packed texts to Gordon after the final buzzer.
Hayward knows his missives can be lengthy. It cracked him up to hear his son discuss the long-distance consultations once with Jazz broadcaster David Locke. He laughs about how Gordon told Locke, "Yeah, I've got this whole book I've got to read from my dad."
The proud author cracks a grin about his long-winded fingers.
"I think he appreciates it anyways," the elder Hayward said. He chuckled and added, "I'm not sure if he gets half of them."
Gordon does. He might be in the locker room, on the team charter or at his place, but he gets them and reads every single word. Then he plays the role of a good son.
"He always responds," his dad said.
Sometimes, Gordon will pick up the phone and talk things over with his father. At times, he'll ask questions or explain what his intentions were and what happened via a text chat.
Other times, the son simply replies, "Thanks" or "Appreciate it, Dad" or "Love you."
A son's gift
If a Father's Day tradition holds up this Sunday morning, Gordon will show a token of gratitude to his namesake. As he's done before, the local legend will accompany his dad to a school gym somewhere in the Indianapolis area where a group that gathers every Sunday for hoops will play a pick-up game with — or at least in the company of — the lifelong Pacers' fan who wears No. 20 for the Jazz.
Gordon, who's been invited to participate in an elite USA Basketball minicamp in July with teammate Derrick Favors, might feel like he's playing in a slow-mo replay. But his dad loves this annual gift. So do his weekend warrior basketball buddies, who cherish getting autographs, photos and a chance to catch up with a rising NBA star who's as down to earth as he is talented.
"They'll bring their sons and jerseys and whatever (to be signed)," the elder Hayward explained. "They all know it's Father's Day and Gordon's going to be there."
The same thing happens when Dad's birthday rolls around in August.
Sometimes after they change out of their basketball shorts and put on their church clothes for Sunday services, Gordon gives his dad some payback in the car. These are the perfect like-father-like-son occasions for the coach to receive some "Van Talk" of his own.
Both Gordon Haywards laugh about that.
"He'll give me a pointer, 'Dad, what are you doing!? What were you thinking!?'" the 40-something Hayward said, chuckling.
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