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Frank Layden: Letting Scott go was a mistake

Published September 8, 2012 4:28 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Over the years, Frank Layden handled every job imaginable for the Utah Jazz.

Coach. General manager. President. TV analyst. Cheerleader. Goodwill ambassador. Stand-up comedian.

You name it, Layden did it.

On a list of those responsible of preventing a move by the franchise during the financial stuggle of the 1980s, the top names would be Larry Miller, Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Layden.

Now 80, Layden still loves the Jazz, although considerable bloom came off that rose this week with the announcement that his son had taken a job as assistant general manager in San Antonio.

Since 2005, Scott Layden was an assistant coach with the Jazz. But his strength has always been as an evaluator of players. Logically, many expected he would eventually replace Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor.

Of course, Scott Layden never said anything that could be remotely construed as campaigning for the job. He worked diligently as a bench coach and deflected all questions about player personnel or his future.

"I was lucky to work with Scott for as long as I did," says former coach Jerry Sloan. "He's a terrific guy ­— a very loyal guy, a tremendously hard-working guy."

In August, O'Connor announced he was handing over his day-to-day GM duties but remaining as vice president of basketball operations.

I assumed Layden might slide into that role, given the success of the teams he pieced together around Stockton and Malone and his knowledge of what it takes to win in small-market Utah.

Wrong.

Layden didn't get the job. Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey did. And that's fine. A hot commodity in recent years, Lindsey is undeniably qualified.

The strange part of the process, however, is that Scott Layden didn't know the job opening existed until it had already been filled. And for someone who served the team so well, Scott Layden deserved a phone call.

Frank Layden is biased, of course. But his nearly lifelong contribution to the Jazz allows him latitude when discussing the episode.

"This is tantamount to losing a great player," he said. "I mean, how do you let him go? He was an incredible resource. You make room for a guy like that. It just doesn't make sense to me. It's a total loss."

For his service, the Jazz retired a jersey in Frank Layden's honor.

Now, he has a suggestion.

"Truth be told, it's really Scott's name that should be up there," he said. "Really. Instead of letting him go, they should put his name up there."

Frank Layden sighed.

"I'm sure there was a behind-the-scenes reason for what the Jazz did," he said. "Fortunately, Scott was able to leave. You don't want to be where you aren't wanted, and he got a good job with a good organization. He's on his feet, and we're very proud of him."