One-on-One with Frank Layden

Throughout the season spurs.com will celebrate the Spurs 40th Anniversary by visiting with former players, coaches and front office staff to discuss their experiences with the organization and the city of San Antonio.
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Frank Layden, father of current Spurs assistant general manager Scott Layden, spent nearly 20 years coaching and working the front office with the Utah Jazz. In 1979, Layden was hired to be the general manager of the New Orleans Jazz, and became the head coach of the Jazz in 1981. He worked the sidelines until 1989, moving into the team’s front office. In 1983 Layden was named the NBA Coach of the Year and the NBA’s Executive of the Year. He retired from the Jazz in 1998. The elder-Layden took some time out his recent visit in San Antonio to speak with Spurs.com.

On competing against the Spurs as a coach:
“It’s funny, I’ve been coming here for so long. The first time I came to San Antonio, the team was in the ABA. I was an assistant coach with Atlanta when I came here and I was overwhelmed with the support from the Baseline Bums to the military in the balcony. The excitement of playing here in this wonderful city is great. I kept coming back for my punishment through the years. In fact, it’s interesting in meeting some of the people here. Some people say, ‘Hey coach it’s good to see you, we used to hate you!’ I think they’re great fans here. It’s a great atmosphere.”

On coaching against George Gervin:
“I admired him. He was acrobatic. He was wonderful. He could shoot the ball and he played with grace. He knew how to play. Then I had him when I coached the Western All-Stars in 1984 and he was on the team. I got to know him and found out he was a real nice guy, a gentle guy. He played hard and wanted to win even though it was an All-Star game. It was only for one game, but it was a nice relationship. Don’t forget when they (Spurs) had him and they were coming into the NBA. That was a tremendous plus because he turned out to be a superstar.”

On playing at the HemisFair Arena:
“This is a great arena (AT&T Center) now, but I’m a little old fashioned. I go back to the old days. I liked the HemisFair. I liked the atmosphere there. It was just like Salt Lake City, the old Salt Palace. I think it was more intimate. The fans were closer to the game. However, I understand this is a palace where there is a home court advantage.”

On his favorite places to visit in San Antonio:
“I really like the Little Rhein Steak House. The one thing I liked at the Riverwalk was there was a jazz band (Jim Cullum Jazz Band) in the Hyatt Hotel. We always stopped there. This is the interesting thing, every time I came here it was very Catholic. I’m very Catholic. I always went to Mass here. I liked the culture, the food and the restaurants. Every time I come here I go to the Alamo. To me it’s one of our great monuments and we need to pay homage to it.”

On the Spurs this season:
“I’ve had the advantage to watch them practice. They are very well coached, but there are a couple of ingredients that have been instilled in them by the coaches. Pop is a great coach; he’s very, very smart. Obviously, you don’t get through the Air Force Academy without being smart. He’s tough, ‘Gary Indiana Iron Worker’ tough. The thing is, he’s taught this team to be like the old Celtics. By that I mean, they make the extra pass. They play unselfishly. That’s interesting because the offense he runs is perfect for these players. They get open. But the bottom line is they make the shots. They are a great shooting team. That’s on purpose. I think R.C. Buford has brought in kids who can shoot the ball. I think a lot of guys can have offenses that work. They have great perimeter shooters and have guys who are willing to give the ball up and give them those open shots. If they didn’t make the shots, the guys wouldn’t pass to them as much. But they remind me of the old Celtics, the Larry Bird Celtics, because they’re all willing to pass that basketball to their teammates. They suck everybody in, then bingo they have the patience to wait in the corner and of course they’re great corner shooting team.”