When Jazz owner Larry Miller made his annual prediction of 50 or more victories before last season, Coach Frank Layden cringed but said nothing. But when the Jazz won three playoff games over Portland to go with their 47 regular-season wins, Layden smiled and told Miller, "There's your 50 wins."
This season, Layden has considerably raised his sights. He's promising 50-plus victories - in the regular season alone. "This team has the potential to win 50 to 55 games," he says. "I'm going to start right from the beginning, challenging them to the goal. I don't think they're a secret anymore; I can't hide them."Now Miller finds himself not wanting to expect too much. "I don't like to get carried away, but it's fun to think about what might happen," he said. "I'm pretty excited about it."
The players are, too. "You seriously have to think we should win 50 games this year," said Bobby Hansen, who's counting on a fast start. "Barring any major injuries or unforeseen things happening, I look at something like 20-5 for the first 25 games. That's probably a little far-fetched, but just looking at the games we should win . . . "
Thurl Bailey was a little surprised by Layden's departure from the downplaying approach, but he noted, "We know how good we can be now. The expectations should be higher."
Just the same, added Bailey, "Probably the best thing to do is not even give a number. We're going to go out and try to win as many games as possible anyway."