This week's $10,000 is not the first money that Coach Frank Layden's comments about officiating has cost Jazz owner Larry Miller this season.
But while the repeat offense concerns Miller, he said Wednesday, "It hasn't even crossed my mind to take what I would call major disciplinary action, or even termination. It's a situation that requires some serious discussion. I'm concerned, because I want to make sure Frank's concerned about the good of the franchise, and not just economically."The Jazz were secretly fined $5,000 in December following Layden's comments in the Deseret News about the referees' alleged protection of Michael Jordan and other major-market players. A high-ranking NBA official told Miller the league was fining the team and not Layden because, "We can't control Frank; only you can do that."
Miller met with Layden shortly afterward and says now, "I thought we had it handled, without being heavy-handed."
The latest fine resulted from a newspaper interview in Denver, the day after Layden was ejected from a March 14 game. "I guess I have a problem with comments being made a day later, outside of the emotion of the moment," Miller allowed.
Layden will be on the bench tonight when the Jazz play Golden State in the Salt Palace. Jazz president-general manager David Checketts said of management's response to Layden, "That's something we have to deal with internally -- and we'll deal with it."
Having spoken with NBA commissioner David Stern Wednesday, Checketts planned to join Miller in writing an appeal letter to the league office, at Stern's suggestion. But he said, "I don't expect to get any relief." Added Miller, "I do suspect a painful part of this will stick."
Former Dallas Coach Dick Motta was fined $5,000 last April and suspended for one game after alleging that Houston was purposely losing games to alter its playoff position. Comparing that fine with the Jazz's, Checketts said, "Talk about hurting the integrity of the league . . . I thought what (Motta) did was much worse."
The Jazz want the NBA to review the complete circumstances that resulted in the fine, starting with referee Jack Madden's ejection of Layden in the first quarter of the Denver game. In the process, they hope to create a way to have opinions of officiating heard, in addition to the standard coaches' and general managers' reviews and formal protests.
The irony of the fines is that Layden created more of a stir in November when he chose to protest the officiating and the system of fines for complaining about officiating by refusing to talk to the media after the first two games of the season. He took the same approach after a game Saturday, not long before the latest fine was announced.
"We need to work with the league to establish a legitimate forum," Miller noted. "We have got to have a way to talk to the league and be heard . . . meanwhile, we're going to tell Frank he needs to look at what's best for the team. He's the guy who's been around the longest; he's the guy who's supposed to maintain his composure in times of adversity."