Tributes to Two Members of the NBA’s Utah Jazz Extended Family: On the Death of Jack Stockton, and in Tribute to Frank Layden
By Ken K. Gourdin
Jack Stockton, father of National Basketball Association Hall of Famer (as well as the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and one of the NBA’s 50 all-time greatest players in 1996) John Stockton, recently passed away. For coveage of his passing by The Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe, see here (this and all other links last accessed June 17, 2017): http://www.sltrib.com/sports/5342778-155/kragthorpe-good-memories-of-jack-stockton. I commented:
Condolences to all of those affected by Jack Stockton’s loss. People may disagree about how the younger Stockton erected and chose to maintain an impenetrable boundary between his personal and professional lives (I think doing so certainly was his prerogative), but no one can deny what John Stockton has meant to the Utah Jazz, to Salt Lake City, to the state of Utah, and to the game of basketball. Thanks to both the elder and to the younger Mr. Stockton (indeed, to all of the Stocktons) for making that possible.
I’ve always been somewhat in awe of former Utah Jazz Head Coach and General Manager Frank Layden. One reason for that is because I was a fan of the Jazz long before the Jazz deserved any fans, and both the elder Layden and his son, Scott, as the team’s former Vice President of Basketball Operations, played key roles in the Jazz’s turnaround.
Forget winning multiple Midwest Division and Western Conference Championships; forget contending twice in consecutive seasons for an NBA title; forget having two NBA Hall-of-Famers, along with several other memorable players who played key roles; I was a fan of the pre-winning season, pre-Stockton-and-Malone, pre-Western-Conference-winning, pre-NBA-Championship-competing, woeful Utah Jazz.
Yep. Those Utah Jazz.
I’m always amused by “fans” who turn on the team when it loses a key game here or there, when it suffers a mini-losing-streak, or otherwise is mired in a bit of a temporary lull. I can remember when the Jazz lost 58 games (out of 82) in consecutive seasons. Heck, I was ecstatic when the Jazz won a mere thirty games, the year before they had their first winning season in many years, won the Midwest Division Championship, and finally qualified for the playoffs.
I like to say that I’ve been a fan of the Jazz since before the Jazz deserved any fans, and it seems to me that Frank Layden always has been especially appreciative of those who have been fans of the team since its earliest woeful days in Utah, when there wasn’t a lot to cheer about. At the invitation of my physical therapist at the time, Jan Hurst, I went to a Jazz game (along with pregame festivities). Notwithstanding his down-to-earth, self-deprecating, folksy manner, I’ve always been a bit in awe of the elder Layden, and I remember standing wordlessly, mouth agape, after he told me, “Ken, I’m gonna put this over here, OK?” after autographing an item I’d brought to the event.
The elder Layden and his son, Scott, as I said, played key roles in the Jazz turnaround, not the least of which was there involvement in the acquisition of Mr. Malone and Mr. Stockton. Mr. Kragthorpe also chronicled festivities held by the Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, to honor Coach Layden’s long and distinguished contributions to Utah sports and to the community. See the following address for his coverage: http://www.sltrib.com/home/5410092-155/kragthorpe-salt-lake-bees-will-celebrate. I commented, “God bless the Laydens. Thank you, all of you, for everything you’ve done for Salt Lake City and for the state of Utah.”