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Even today, during Jazz games in the Salt Palace, there are VIP seats between the scorer's table and the benches, creating such a crush of humanity that at times there aren't enough seats on the Utah bench for all the players.
"Losing makes it easier to look for excuses or easy laughs," Layden says. "I enjoy the humor, but beneath all of that was a very serious plan. I haven't won in the pros, but I've always known that given the material, I could."
The material that the 52-year-old Layden, who was 119-97 as coach at Niagara from 1968-76, refers to is a supporting cast for Dantley and Griffith. In fact, until this season the book on the Jazz was: Let Dantley and Griffith get their points; no one else can hurt you. "We would win an awful lot of first quarters," Layden says, "but eventually I had to take A.D. or Darrell or both out of the game, and that would usually be it."
Even when Utah tried to build around its two stars it seemed to fall on its face. Long noted for trading away first-round draft choices for questionable talent, the Jazz seemingly did it again in 1982 by acquiring Drew from the Atlanta Hawks in return for the negotiating rights to Utah's No. 1 draft pick, Dominique Wilkins. When questioned about the wisdom of trading such a surefire star, Layden, who also serves as the Jazz' general manager, responded in typical fashion: "Dominique? It was supposed to have been Jeff [ Wilkins, a backup center]."
Things weren't as funny 10 games into the season, when Drew left the Jazz to enter a Baltimore drug-rehabilitation program. By the time he returned in February, Dantley had been hurt and the season was lost.
Public reaction to Utah's 1983 No. 1 draft choice, forward Thurl Bailey from North Carolina State, was favorable; this time Layden came under preseason fire when he announced that Dantley would be used at the offguard position as well as at small forward. Among those skeptical of the move was Dantley, who had to contend not only with coming back from a serious injury, but also with learning a new position. "I'd played guard before in summer leagues, but doing it in NBA games is an entirely different type of pressure," Dantley says. "I was leery about making the switch; it seemed like I was thinking too much about what to do and how to do it, and meanwhile I'd fall a step behind everybody else. It still takes a lot out of me, and sometimes I don't feel productive at the guard spot, but so far it looks like a pretty good move."
Although Green jokingly says, "Getting the ball to all the guys enough to make them happy is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," there's little discussion these days about the Jazz' needing three basketballs to satisfy Dantley, Griffith and Drew.
"No way," Dantley says. "I've never had problems adjusting to situations, and I don't shoot as much as some people think I do. I get a lot of my opportunities from the fast break or just cutting to the ball.
"I'm a scorer, and that makes a difference. If you're just a shooter, then you have to have the ball and take so many shots a game to get your points. Drew and I are scorers, so we're not like other teams where the coaches have to sit around worrying about how they're going to get so-and-so and so-and-so a certain amount of shots every game."
The Jazz is still winning the early quarters with Dantley and Griffith starting. Then Drew comes off the bench to replace Dantley at forward. After a time, Dantley spells Griffith at guard, where A.D. is capable of posting up smaller defenders. Dantley's total of 453 free-throw attempts—he'd made 392—through last week was 134 more then that of the runner-up in the league, Moses Malone.