ANOTHER STOP ON THE FRANK LAYDEN World Tour found him playing the beautiful Saltair Room of the Airport Quality Inn one afternoon last week, entertaining 36 of his closest friends who happen to run Big O Tire franchises.
In 20 minutes, he delivered 40 one-liners, ranging from the Johnny Carson/Jay Leno style - "Did ya see who's back in the news?" - to his old standby, the oversized athletic supporter routine. By the end of the session, he was reminding the tire people that they're "part of the Jazz family" and exiting to a standing ovation.Just another day in the life of Francis P. Layden, president.
In three months since giving up coaching the Jazz, Layden has worked audiences on both coasts. He's spoken to business groups ranging from Quaker Oats to the Ogden Board of Realtors. He's met with David Letterman's people and CBS Sports about regular apperances. He's judged a bikini contest.
He's even managed to work in a few Jazz games.
"I don't want to get caught up where I'm back in the rat race," admits Layden. "My schedule has become a little crowded."
And the requests just keep coming. For every speaking gig he takes - some for charity, some for team sponsors, some for pocket cash (standard fee: $1,500 and expenses) - Layden turns down about six offers.
Judging by the stack of letters on his assistant's desk, you just know that everybody figures they've got a shot at landing the big guy for their breakfast/sales meeting/flag-raising. Even while he's learning to say no, his day-timer reads like, well, an NBA schedule. He already has a booking in October.
"He's so good at this stuff," says Jazz general manager David Checketts. "I'll tell you one thing, he's more than earning his money."
So what's his presidential job description, anyway? Nobody seems to know for sure.
Checketts: "I wanted a lot of help on the PR side. I think he can give us even more help that way."
Owner Larry Miller: "He's probably doing more of that now than he will be doing."
Layden's standing joke is, "I'm just in charge of tee times," but he is involved in the operation that Checketts runs on a day-to-day basis, just like always. Layden has consulted on basketball matters, like Bart Kofoed-Bobby Hansen and possible trades, actively joined in a management retreat and will work hard on the planning and marketing of the new arena, besides scouting college players at postseason tournaments.
"The guy has a good business mind - it would surprise you," says Miller. "I find myself relying on his advice more than I thought I would. As time goes on, his role will increase."
Layden is also eager to do TV work, though - Letterman's people definitely plan to use him, while things are iffy with CBS. The network still wants to portray him as Frank Layden, coach/comic, while he wants to be a genuine, serious analyst working basketball and other sports.
"I'd like to get away from being the clown," says Layden, who has done goofy halftime features for CBS during the last two NBA All-Star Games. "I don't always want to be the guy getting the pie thrown in his face."
Curiously, amid all this, Layden only mildly denied interest when told that athletic director Chris Hill was not yet crossing off his name on the list of University of Utah coaching possibilities. Earlier, he'd said of coaching, "I haven't missed it a lick . . . I hated to go to practice. I'd rather play golf than go to practice; I'd rather watch baseball than basketball."
Said Miller, "I think he's gone through less withdrawal than he thought he would. He looks a lot more relaxed, and that's good."
Besides, what's not to like about his new job? While Jerry Sloan (29-17 since taking over) does the coaching, Layden is still credited as the architect of the Jazz's best team ever. In fact, he marvels at what a great coach he's become, according to public sentiment, since retiring.
Layden has also lost about 50 pounds, although he's had some complications with his diet. Meanwhile, he continues his rampage as the Jazz's ultimate salesman: Meetings with TV people in New York Tuesday, a business breakfast in Salt Lake Wednesday, a sports banquet in Denver Friday. All in the interest of keeping the Jazz's - and his - name in lights.
Says Checketts, "He's really in his element."