The only question after the game was which Frank Layden would show up for the postgame interviews. Frank, the eminent psychologist and motivator? Frank, the stand-up comic? Frank, the NBA's lecturing father figure? Frank, the lay-back-and-have-fun-in-the-playoffs guy? Or all of the above?
In the moments following the Jazz's 113-100 loss to the L.A. Lakers Sunday, Layden's postgame program ranged from happy to sad to funny to mad and back to glad. He ripped Mel Turpin, his overpaid, overfed reserve center; he dressed down an L.A. reporter and, in the process, criticized the entire citizenry of L.A.; he praised the play of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; he delivered a warning to the NBA office about the league's rough play; he chewed out Hot Rod Hundley for interviewing the other guys; oh, and he said - he actually said - he was just glad to be here. And all the while he swore like a sailor."You never know which Frank is going to show up," said one veteran sports writer.
"I stopped trying to figure him out a long time ago," said another writer.
The L.A. series has been one big stage for Layden. Let's see, after Game 1 he virtually conceded defeat. Game 2 was followed by charges of illegal defenses (he actually beat Laker Coach Pat Riley to the punch). He also told the L.A. media that, seeing how he had "upset the Salt Lake media" with his post-Game 1 comments, he had better tone down his humor. Following Game 3 and another Jazz win, Layden still insisted the Lakers would win.
Despite his vow to tone down his act, Layden couldn't resist during Sunday's game, not with a national TV audience and a packed house looking on. At one point, he got downright silly. With the Jazz trailing 78-76 late in the third quarter, Layden was just walking away from Riley at midcourt when he stopped in front of the scorer's table and, with great ceremony, ran a comb through his hair, obviously mocking Riley's slicked 'do. Riley took it in fun, smiling and then laughing at Layden, who obliged by taking a bow. But by the end of the quarter, Riley was still smiling, Layden was not. The Lakers were up 84-76.
Layden seemed all business when he opened his postgame press conference with a couple of perfunctory comments in the interview room. "And now, if you have no other questions, I bid you farewell because I have to go eat my spaghetti across the street . . . All right, I'm not supposed to kid. I'm sorry. I'm wracked over this loss."
And then the real show began. An L.A. reporter and a Utah reporter were both trying to ask questions when Layden turned on the L.A. writer: "Excuse me, the other guy's asking a question . . . I take care of my guys first because he's from here." When Layden appeared to be winding down a short time later, the L.A. reporter tried again, but the coach cut him off. "He's (the Utah reporter) not finished yet," said Layden. "Will you please. You guys in L.A. don't have any manners. This guy's from Provo."
This is the same Layden who, earlier in the week, praised the L.A. reporters until they blushed.
Moments later, Layden turned on Turpin, whose play in the playoffs (a one-point average) is fairly indefensible. On Sunday, Turpin played all of five minutes, producing no points and three boards. "When we put Turpin in he was like a fifth t-- on a bull," he said. "He was as useless as that. Bleep, he only makes a million dollars a year, why should he go out and play?"
Realizing he had said numerous major-league four-letter words, Layden said to a TV cameraman, "You gonna show this on KSL tonight? . . . Channel four will show dirty words."
Layden's mood was still light as he looked ahead to the Jazz's next game, Tuesday night. "I've got all sorts of things to worry about," he said. "The menus, swimming in the ocean . . . and there's no baseball game. I called Tommy Lasorda and he's going to try to have one."
And then Layden was serious again. "There is too much rough play in the NBA," he said, and then cited the Jazz for pushing Magic Johnson into the standard and L.A.'s A.C. Green for knocking down Karl Malone and Mark Eaton. "Years ago we used to tell our players `Let Dr. J dunk the ball (presumably on a sure-thing breakaway play), that's what people pay to see.' Now they tackle the guy."
Layden then left the interview room and returned to the Jazz locker room, but he wasn't finished yet. En route, he spied Hundley, the Jazz's long-time TV/radio play-by-play man. Earlier, while walking to the interview room, Layden had seen Hundley interviewing Green and now he had something to say about it. "I don't want any of their guys on (the show)!" he shouted at Hundley, who explained that he had tried to get another Laker but Green showed up unexpectedly. All this despite the fact that it is a long-held tradition for the Jazz to interview a player from the winning team.
Layden disappeared into the Jazz training room and, after apparently gathering himself for a couple of minutes, reappeared. This time he calmly answered questions for reporters. No one's sure if he ever got his pasta.
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