Doug Robinson: Utah Jazz know how to keep a secret

Published: Saturday, July 20 2013 4:20 p.m. MDT

Former Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor watches work outs during Utah Jazz mini camp at the Zion's Bank Center in Salt Lake City Wednesday, June 12, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

I called Kevin O’Connor, the Jazz’s senior vice president of basketball operations, to discuss the team’s penchant for keeping a secret and not talking publicly about team business — or talking about it and not really saying anything.

“I’m going to have no comment on this story,” O’Connor began.

Just as I was about to panic — where do you go after "no comment"? — I heard him laugh. The Utah Jazz are serious about keeping their yappers shut, but apparently there is no club rule that forbids a sense of humor.

But seriously, if O’Connor, Dennis Lindsey, Jerry Sloan, Ty Corbin, Greg Miller and the rest of the Jazz front office were in charge of the NSA, there would be no Edward Snowden. These guys know how to keep in-house business in-house. If O’Connor ran the White House, there would be no leaks and no drama, and reporters would be bashing their heads against their laptops.

Things would be quietly efficient — and really boring.

“It’s just the way we’ve always operated,” says O’Connor. “It was that way before I got here, and it certainly has been that way since I got here. We don’t like to air our business in public.”

It’s classy and disciplined — but where’s the fun in that?

The NBA is a media circus filled with rumors, leaks, hearsay and drama worthy of a soap opera, but they don’t come via the Jazz. Whether it’s the draft or trades or front-office moves, the Jazz play their cards close to the vest, as if they know something you don’t, which they do.

Remember all the rumors and leaks about the Deron Williams trade? That's because there weren't any. Not from Utah anyway. Nobody saw it coming until the morning it was to be announced.

“I hate to admit this, but I was on a treadmill at a Dallas hotel and my little brother called me to ask what was going on and why was Deron being traded,” says Jody Genessy, the Deseret News Jazz beat writer. “Before I could even get back to my room, a radio station called to ask about it. My brother and a radio station knew about it before I did.”

Later that day, O’Connor personally apologized to the beat writers of Salt Lake’s two major newspapers, explaining that the leak must’ve come from New Jersey’s side or Williams’ agent; it wasn’t the Jazz.

“It comes with the territory,” says Genessy. “It’s hard to get information out of this franchise.”

Brad Rock, the Deseret News sports columnist, once showed up at the office of Frank Layden, the Jazz president at the time, to inquire about the team’s draft plans.

“I don’t know anything about that,” he told Rock. “That’s Scott's department and, honestly, he won’t tell me.”

That would be Scott Layden, the team’s general manager at the time — and Layden’s son.

Scott Layden is now with the San Antonio Spurs, the Jazz’s alter ego. He is to silence what Christina Aguilera is to singing. You could give him the waterboard torture and he wouldn’t tell you a player’s hat size.

Rock once interviewed O’Connor shortly before another draft and was surprised that he was so open about the Jazz’s strategy. The day of the draft, the Jazz traded their pick.

For my part, when I show up at the Jazz camp, I am resigned to the inevitable, so I like to speed things along by starting this way: “Just give me a no-comment so I can be on my way, thank you.”

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