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Utah Jazz History: Families matter . . . and one family has been really big for our franchise

The Miller Family built this house, but the Layden Family made this a home.

Steve Dykes

This is a family friendly blog. And in addition to that, I want this to be a blog that can be read by families. I came from a big family that was very close. And family remains important to me. Family is also super important to the Utah Jazz (heck, why do you think we've started to focus our drafting strategies around married men now -- I see you Kevin Murphy!). We've long held the believe that it was one family more than others, though. And it is true, as a Utah Jazz fan you can't overlook the Miller Family, after all, if not for them the team would have ceased being the "Utah" Jazz a long time ago. Strong leadership comes from the ownership, see what kind of a mess the Sacramento Kings fans are in now, and what the Seattle Super Sonics fans were in years ago.

We're lucky in that regard because of the Miller Family. Larry H. Miller became the full owner of the team when it was a bad financial decision, and his family continues to be a stable, center of direction and employment in the SLC metro area. That said, while the Utah Jazz would not have been in Utah without the Miller family . . . I really think we are overlooking another family. This doesn't take anything away from the Millers. No. It just adds to the legacy and shares some of the shine to mention, recognize, and thank the Layden family as well.

The Millers kept the Jazz in Utah. The Layden's made Utah Jazzy.

The Layden family needs to be recognized. Frank Layden was all sizzle and his antics (while hiding his true talents as a developer of talent and confidence) took the heat from the media, and his son Scott Layden brought the steak (in being the individual primarily responsible for scouting and drafting both John Stockton and Karl Malone). Frank no longer coaches, and Scott has gone to the Spurs. So they're not really "with" the Jazz anymore, but our team would have been a Utah team - but have no Jazz in them without the Laydens.

  • Frank Layden was college team mates with Hubie Brown (first off, can you imagine if they were college room mates? They probably talked for 4 hours a night about bounce passes)
  • Layden and Brown would later be coaches for the Atlanta Hawks
  • I can't get over the Hubie Brown thing -- potentially two college roommates who would both later get NBA Coach of the Year awards -- my room mate and I couldn't even do the dishes . . .
  • Frank was hired as the GM of the New Orleans Jazz in 1979 and became the Head Coach in 1981 (after the Jazz moved to Utah)
  • In Frank's first season coaching the Jazz (an early season replacement of Tom Nissalke, so only 62 games) he went 17-45, for a robust 27.4 win %
  • With the Jazz he slowly built the team up, being both the GM and the head coach. He was a great communicator and motivator. He said silly things. Frank Layden quotes are among the best quotes in human history.
  • In the 1983-84 season Frank Layden won the NBA Coach of the Year award *and* the NBA Executive of the Year award. That was the first winning season in franchise history, as the Jazz won 45 games (54.9 win%). They also made the playoffs for the first time ever as well, and went to the second round. This was that "Jazz don't have Heart" / "Jazz have Heart" season where Frank had to bring in an artificial heart into the locker room. (Again, crazy antics that other Jazz coaches would never have done)
  • Frank Layden build, trained, and coached the Jazz into winners.
  • His son, Scott, helped as well as he was the dude who made the call to draft John Stockton and Karl Malone back when he was just a talent scout / assistant coach.
  • John Stockton is in the Hall of Fame, and was the 16th pick of the 1984 NBA Draft
  • Karl Malone is in the Hall of Fame, and was the 13th pick of the 1985 NBA Draft
  • Good going, kid!
  • Frank Layden motivated and encouraged growth with his two younger players. More than that, he played them. Stockton played 18.2 MPG as a rookie, and that went to 23.6 MPG in his sophomore year -- essentially half the game -- and he never looked back. Malone played 30.6 MPG as a rookie, an all in all, would end up playing 54,852 in his career. Playing early, getting his feet wet, and learning the NBA game firsthand actually kept him in the league. Layden did play the cubs. And they grew to be Lions. (AKA. Kings of the Jungle)
  • Frank Layden was a personable, active character -- and he'd go on to star in a number of crazy NBA Entertainment movies (with Karl Malone, helping his extroverted star get a little more reach and exposure along the way). Scott continued to learn, scout, and develop from behind the scenes.
  • Not every player Scott scouted was a HOFer, and not every coaching decision Frank made got the win. But the team would have been a whole lot more boring - and would have been a perpetually losing franchise - if it was not for them.

Frank stepped down after grooming Jerry Sloan for years - and Sloan used the tools the Laydens gave him, and won over a thousand games in Utah. In a way, the Millers gave the raw materials, and the Laydens the tools -- and master craftsman Jerry Sloan produced works of art. All three groups were important, but we often forget about the Layden's influence.

Jerry brought Dick Motta's offense. Larry Miller paid for everything and kept the franchise in Utah and give it the stability it never had in New Orleans. But the efforts of Frank and Scott can't be overlooked. After all, if it wasn't for them we would have had to replace Nissalke with someone else, and probably did not draft John and Karl. And John and Karl probably wouldn't have played enough to be good enough to be All-Stars from Day 1 of Jerry.

It was a near perfect situation, and it's pretty obvious why Frank's jersey is retired. I don't know what the future holds for Scott, but I'd love to see him return 'home' at some stage in some capacity. He didn't turn water into wine in New York with the Knicks when he was there. That said, with what these two generations of Laydens did for the Utah Jazz franchise -- they, and their family, should be respected and appreciated for as long as there is a team in the Salt Lake Valley. No Laydens = No Stockton and Malone. And No Stockton and Malone = no Amar as a Jazz fan. So, from me, thanks Frank Layden and Scott Layden.

You mean a lot to all of us Jazz fans all over the world. Thank you so much!

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