Frank Layden is back in the spotlight

Former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden is seen in a 1988 file photo. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Rick Carlisle and Frank Layden addressed the media in a pre-game press conference on Sunday.

As a result, decades of coaching wisdom and camaraderie were on display in Toronto. Their stories were transmitted to all corners of the globe

Layden received the 2019 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award and entertained reporters with many tales while in the spotlight.

Carlisle, the longtime Dallas Mavericks coach and National Basketball Coaches Association president, has known Layden for decades. Which means he can explain Layden’s mannerisms in a natural way.

At one point during this NBA Finals press conference, Carlisle described Layden this way: “Frank is well known as a guy with one-liners, a big personality. The fact is he’s a NBA legend. He’s an accomplished basketball man.”

And now Frank Layden is part of an elite fraternity, joining the list of distinguished bench bosses who’ve collected the Daly Award.

The others:
Doug Moe
Hubie Brown
Al Attles
Jerry Sloan
K.C. Jones
Dick Motta
Bernie Bickerstaff
Bill Fitch
Pat Riley
Lenny Wilkens
Jack Ramsay
Tex Winters
Tom Heinsohn

Naturally, reporters asked Layden and Carlisle for their impressions of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his NBA Finals counterpart, Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors as team leaders and people.

Carlisle gave the short answer. Then it was Layden’s turn to wax philosophical.

“Tremendous,” Carlisle offered. “Tremendous. Steve is — a run of five consecutive Finals is just an amazing accomplishment, regardless of the talent. And I’ve watched Nick closely, we played against him twice this year. He’s terrific in making adjustments and I love the way he’s approached the entire season, they have set up the entire season to work to get to this point and for a first-time NBA head coach, that’s not easy to do.”

Layden on Kerr

“I just met Steve for the first time outside and we hugged each other and he said, ‘It’s such an honor and a pleasure to meet you,’ meaning me,” Layden stated. “And I said to him, ‘You know, Steve, are you having fun?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am.’ I said, ‘Then continue to do it as long as you are, continue to do it the way you’re doing it, never forget where you came from, and enjoy the ride.’ No matter who you are, whether you’re Red Auerbach or Steve Kerr or anybody else, Pat Riley, basketball’s temporary. The games are temporary, sooner or later it comes to an end and you want to leave a legacy, that’s important.

‘What I recognize, Coach, is Steve gets it. He gets it. He communicates. Johnny Wooden made it very simple, when someone asked him, ‘What’s a good coach?’ He said, ‘A good coach is one who wins when he has good players.’ Now that might be an overstatement because a lots of guys coach good players and lose. You know that, you’ve seen it along the way. Otherwise we wouldn’t need Las Vegas, would we?

‘So the thing being that Steve has good players and he wins with good players but he seems to communicate so well with it and balance the identities and it isn’t all him. He has a role in it, but whatever he’s doing he makes that family do it very, very well. It’s a great example that whatever level you coach at, Steve Kerr is the kind of guy — I mean, my thing is, I always judge coaches by, would I want my son to play for that coach or would I want my daughter to play for that coach? And if the answer is yes, then they’re a good coach. And I think that that’s what I could say about Steve Kerr. If I had a son, I would want or daughter that could play for him, I would say certainly. He seems to be a gentleman, he handles winning well, when a lot of people don’t, you know. We always get back to Pete Carril’s words about, if losing builds character, sometimes winning reveals it. And I think he’s handled himself very well both in winning and when he’s been losing…”

Impressions of Nurse

Frank Layden, now 87, coached the Utah Jazz from 1981-88 and later served as team president. He worked at Niagara University as the head man and as an Atlanta Hawks assistant under Hubie Brown before joining the Jazz.

Speaking about Nurse, Layden delivered these remarks: “I don’t know him. I’ve never met him, all right. I’ll have to say this for him, so far I’ve been impressed. You know what I like about the team here? They play hard. I don’t know if they can win, I don’t know if they’re better, I don’t want to measure them by that, but they just went through a long schedule and had the best record, didn’t they? That’s why they’re here tonight and not somewhere else. So I mean, so far, oh, he’s done a wonderful job. He’s done a great job.

“You know we’re talking about the World Series here, in a game that’s played around the world by more people than maybe than outside of soccer than any other game in the world. So I’m impressed, yeah.”

Layden the storyteller

In addition to commenting on the current NBA Finals coaches, Layden spoke Sunday about his banter with referees.

“You know,” he recalled. “I remember Earl Strom one night, when we were getting killed by the Lakers, you know, and I said to Scottie (his son), and of course at that time Phil Johnson was my assistant coach along with Scott, and I said, ‘Listen, you guys take over this game. Try to pull it out.’ I said, ‘I’m going across the street and get us a table for dinner. I’m going to get drunk.

“So I started on Strom, and just got after him something awful. And he gave me, remember he used to do this, (indicating), he was blowing the whistle and screaming and everything, and he is storming over at me, storming over, and he finally gets there. He says, ‘I know what you’re trying to do. But if I got to stay here and watch this (expletive), so do you. Sit down and shut up.’ ”

Classic Layden story

TV cameras and newspaper reporters captured Frank Layden’s colorful character during his heyday.

The Los Angeles Times chronicled one famous episode in a November 1991 column.

Here’s how Larry Stewart’s “BLT and Chili Certainly Beat Watching a Drubbing” began:

“It was the 1985 season and the Utah Jazz were losing badly to the Lakers at the Forum. It was midway through the fourth quarter and Jazz Coach Frank Layden’s mind began to wander. He began thinking about the chili, and the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches served at the team’s hotel across from the Forum.

“I looked around and saw people walking out of the Forum, as usual, and asked myself, ‘What the heck am I staying for?’ ” Layden is quoted as saying in a new Pocket Book, ‘The Basketball Hall of Shame.’

“Layden told his assistant to take over and walked off, passing the Laker bench on his way out.

“ ‘Where you going?’ Coach Pat Riley asked.

“Said Layden: ‘Everybody else is leaving, so why should I stick around and suffer through this? I’m going across the street for some chili and a BLT.’

“Added Layden: When he sat down at the counter in the hotel coffee shop, the guy sitting next to him, according to Layden, said: ‘You know, you look just like Frank Layden, the Utah coach. He’s staying here at the hotel. Stick around. He’ll probably be in here after the game.'”

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