Basketball bonds: Gordon Hayward's father has helped the Jazz player during every step of his career
"Once you get to be that age and you're still playing basketball, there's a lot of things that your body just can't do. It's pretty funny to watch him play," the younger Gordon said, teasingly. "His game's progressively slowing down at a rapid pace, so I've got to take it easy on him."
Dad is careful not to overstep his bounds with "Van Talk." Not surprisingly for an Indiana guy, he knows basketball inside and out, even assisting Gordon's Butler teammate Ronald Nored at Brownsburg last season. Still, he's fully aware that Tyrone Corbin, Sidney Lowe and Mike Sanders are his son's coaches. He'd never instruct Gordon to do something different than what he's told to do by the Jazz. Dad is a helpful mentor, but they're his son's bosses and it's important for him to maintain that level of respect by not interfering or giving contradicting counsel behind their backs.
"It's always about skill," the elder Hayward said. "It's not about strategy."
Gordon gets the distinct difference. "It's like a play-by-play of what I did well, what I could've done better, which is kind of cool."
"Depending on the play, it could be short like, 'Great space and shot.' Or like, 'Good energy for the first quarter,'" the Jazz shooting guard said. "Or it could be, 'You need to do this, this, this, this or should've done this instead of that.'"
In the do-this-instead-of-that category, the former NCAA poster boy admitted he'll sometimes drive too deep and try to force contact in hopes of getting to the free-throw line. His dad and coaches suggest that he mix it up by pulling up for a jumper, shooting a floater or dishing out to a teammate instead of venturing into referees-aren't-going-to-bail-you-out land where he's at a disadvantage.
"He's always like, 'Yeah, you're right,'" the smiling father said. "I told him, 'I don't want to hear I'm right. What I want to hear, 'Yeah, I know. I watched it. I'm going to go work on it, and I'm going to stop it.'"
Hayward continued, laughing, "I don't want to hear I'm right. That doesn't do anything for me. I know I'm right."
What's that saying about father knows best?
Dad summed up the standard advice given to his son: "Make the right basketball play."
"It's not about stats. It's not about scoring," he said. "It's about making the right decision, making the right play."
That constant input might feel overbearing and annoy some sons. Not Gordon. He knows his dad, the man who taught him how to shave and properly tie a tie, wants him to maximize his talent. The scrutiny and positive reinforcement will help him and his team throughout his NBA career. Most importantly, this relationship ritual is a continual reaffirmation of his dad's deep love and commitment for him.
"It's nice to have that," Gordon said. "For him to take the time to watch my games — every single game — and send me text messages is pretty special."
Early last season, Gordon was in a shooting slump and Mom wanted to help, too.
Forget about how the slender 5-foot-10 athlete used to avoid shooting the ball when she was Brownsburg High's starting center as much as she shuns on-the-record interviews with reporters.
"My buddy and I went and watched her. We used to yell 'Shoot!' every time she got the ball. She never shot the ball. She just got it and passed it immediately, even though she was a pretty good shooter," the elder Hayward recalled of his longtime sweetheart. "One time, they passed it into her on the inbounds. She turned around and passed it right back to the girl before she had a chance to step in."
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