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Layden calls it quits as Starzz coach
Age, other reasons cited; assistant takes the helm

SHARE Layden calls it quits as Starzz coach
Age, other reasons cited; assistant takes the helm

It is, after all, time for Frank Layden to "tee it up."

The 1984 NBA Coach of the Year of the Utah Jazz, who took over coaching the Utah Starzz last July 27, has decided to leave that position for the golf course, though he will remain president of the Utah Jazz organization.Monday morning, after coaching 15 games with the WNBA team (4-11 record) over parts of two seasons, Layden announced his resignation. He goes out the way he came in, with a win. He started with a win over the Phoenix Mercury last July, and he goes out following a victory over the Sacramento Monarchs on Saturday night.

Assistant coach Fred Williams replaces him on a permanent basis.

Layden said he made the decision late Saturday night following the game after discussing it with his wife, Barbara. "I said to myself, 'I'm not even happy when we win,' " noting that he had that same feeling before resigning as Jazz coach. "I don't want to pay this price."

The resignation comes after a frustrating road trip on which the Starzz lost twice, Layden's stomach gave him a lot of problems and he and the team seemed divided in their philosophies.

He was upset that some of the international players who arrived last week did not pick up the system quickly, and he had harsh words for them at times. Other players were offended that the international stars went right to the starting lineup after the core of the team had spent a month in two-a-day practices. Others have always wanted a female on the coaching staff.

Layden cited his age, 16-hour days, a feeling of having accomplished the transition from the Starzz's original coaching staff, headed by Denise Taylor, and a desire to spend time with his family.

"It's a somewhat bittersweet moment, but I guarantee you it's all sweet," Layden said, echoing the words of his son, Scott, the Jazz/Starzz VP of basketball operations, who opened Monday morning's Delta Center press conference with a statement of "some bittersweet feelings. My dad is resigning."

"It wasn't that I was getting physically tired as much as mentally tired," he said.

"I'm passing the reins on. We're changing the face of the team. I think we've changed the attitude of the team, and I think we're headed in the right direction. I think it is time for me to go tee it up and pass the baton on to someone who deserves it and I'm sure can take the team to its next level.

"I've got a life to lead. When you get my age (67), you buy a pair of socks, you know they're going to last the rest of your life."

He left with a feeling of having "changed the face of the team," which has the worst record in the WNBA over its two years and four games but seems to have great potential.

He had felt energized by taking over coaching after being turned off by the me-first/big-money attitudes in the NBA. He loves teaching and had hoped to pass on a lot of knowledge to the women.

Barbara Layden said she couldn't really describe her husband's reasons. "I don't think it was physical or mental. I think he felt it was time to hand over the reins," she said. She said that last year, when he accepted the job after Taylor was fired, he did it with the idea that he would do it until he felt it was time to leave. It's better, she said, to do that early in a season when the new coaching staff can have time to assert itself. He had only nine games last season and had little time to implement his ideas.

She said, "I am extremely happy that this happened."

Williams said he will change little but may "tweak" a few things. He said Richard Smith and Mike Layden will remain assistant coaches, but he might bring in one more assistant.

"A dream has come true this morning for me," Williams said. "I didn't think it would come so soon." He noted that he's a quiet man, and the few statements he made during the press conference were "the most I've talked in my two years in Salt Lake City. All I want to do is win."

Williams is a former University of Southern California head coach (20-9 in 1997, NCAA Tournament second round) and associate head coach with Cheryl Miller, now coach of the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. He has been assistant coach of the Starzz since the beginning of the 1998 season, takes over for Layden. He has coached such WNBA stars as two-time league MVP Cynthia Cooper (Houston Comets) and Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks). Williams is a 1980 graduate of Boise State. At USC, he was part of the 1984 NCAA championship, and made two NCAA championship appearances.