Very few of the Utah Starzz are familiar with the "Bonny's Cut," so new coach Frank Layden called Starzz director of basketball operations Scott Layden off the bench to demonstrate the L- shaped cut identified with St. Bonaventure University of New York, Layden's old haunt.
After Scott Layden went through the maneuver, he stood on the court for a moment, then said, "Dad, do you need me for anything else?""Yeah," said Frank, "let's see you shoot."
He also made son Mike Layden, now his part-time assistant, shoot free throws so the Starzz could learn the breakout patterns that the coach wants them to use after making free throws.
Later, Frank Layden told 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek how to handle pesky little defenders who surround her and claw at the ball. "And they will be pesky - because they are jealous," Layden said, getting a laugh.
In just their first two practice sessions with their new coach, the Starzz learned something new: Pay attention. Otherwise, they'll miss the jokes.
Guard Tammi Reiss said she realizd she hadn't always been attentive in previous Starzz practices. Layden's first few hours actually coaching the team were "very informative," Reiss said. "The feedback is incredible," she added, noting that when players don't do what they're supposed to, the drill is run again with further explanation.
"It's going to take some getting used to," said Reiss. "You can't be lackadaisical."
She said she found herself "being disciplined to be focused for an hour and a half or two hours (of practice), just like in a game."
It sounds so simple, but in previous Starzz practices, proper execution wasn't always an emphasis, and that carried through to a lot of turnovers and lost chances on the court.
"It's been really good. I can tell already that everyone's learning," said guard Tricia Bader. "He's so experienced. Everyone is feeding off it."
"You take control of the things you can," said Layden, 66, who took over the Starzz Monday with 11 games left in a 30-game season and won his debut Monday night, 90-80 over the contending Phoenix Mercury. The Starzz are 7-13 with 10 games left. They won only seven games last year.
The Layden-era Starzz play for the second time Thursday night at Houston and host the Los Angeles Sparks Saturday night in the Delta Center.
Things that can be controlled begin with turnovers that come from not just poor passes or the other team's hustle but from a player like Dydek or Wendy Palmer being double-teamed and a teammate not finding a way to get open quickly enough, not getting to spots quickly enough. "You have to learn to be not casual," Layden told the Starzz.
On Monday night, at halftime, Layden was disturbed by 10 turnovers. "I asked them at halftime, `Do you hear a ticking? You're throwing the ball around like it's a bomb. (Pass) with purpose, don't just throw it,' " he said.
While the Starzz are learning to really listen and focus, Layden says he's already having a ball coaching in the WNBA. "You say something once, and they all understand," he said. And players kept saying, "Thank you" to him. "This is definitely different (than NBA or NCAA men's play).
"It's a throwback," said Layden, who loves the old days when people played the game for fun.
"For the first time in my life," Layden added, "I'm coaching without any pressure. I don't need the job. It's not like life and death to me. I could go back to doing what I was doing - nothing." Layden was, and still is, president of the Utah Jazz and the Starzz.
Still, he admitted he's "cramming" for his basketball exams, relearning old notes and plays. "Fortunately, the game doesn't change," said Layden.