Being married to a coach isn't necessarily a piece of cake, but Layden has been "a very lovely man, right from the start," says Barbara. Lovely? Barbara insists that it's absolutely true, from the evening they met at Maguire's Bar over in Rockaway, which is as romantic a spot as one could find anywhere, if one is a sports nut. Layden asked to drive her home, and they were wed a year later. The Laydens now have two sons, and a daughter. Scott, 27, was assistant basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson and is now an assistant on the Jazz. Explaining why Scott got the job, Layden said, "I didn't hire Scott because he's my son. I hired him because I'm married to his mother." Then there are Mike, 18, who was a .400 hitter at Skyline High in Salt Lake City and is now on a baseball scholarship at the University of Utah, and Katie, 15, who plays basketball and softball at Skyline High. Plus one close-cropped sheepdog named Samantha.
The round man polishes off the last of an enormous chefs salad and sips delicately at his Diet Coke, slice of lime. For starters there had been tomato soup, and for dessert there will be a fat apple turnover and vanilla ice cream. And now he looks around contentedly.
"When I won Coach of the Year," he says, "Pat Williams and the NBA guys sent me this big bouquet of lovely flowers. And he called me the next day and said, 'You get our flowers?' And I told him, 'Yeah, they were delicious."
Layden is at The New Yorker Club in Salt Lake City, and he is in good spirits. The team is off to a respectable start (13-10). "I told those guys," he says, "that they had been looking like so many maitre d's when what I wanted was bouncers. A maitre d' shows you to your table. A bouncer busts you over the head with it."
It's undiluted Layden: the Great Motivator at Work and Play. Utah will be his last team. The old Brooklyn shooter and Salt Lake City have fallen in love with each other, and if the team ever moves, Layden will stay put. "What I'm going to do when I stop coaching," he says, "is go back to college and study drama, the theater. Maybe I'll become a character actor. That sound right to you?"
About perfect. A lot of what Layden does right now is acting, in a way; it masks his intensity about the game. "So all right," he says, "in a game I have a tendency to crack a joke. But you can calm down a player that way and maybe save his career. And that's important to me. Look, artists get recognized only after they're dead. I want my guys to be recognized now."
And as quickly as it had appeared, his serious side vanishes again.
"So I saw Darryl Dawkins [of the Nets] last month," Layden says. "He's very proud of all his muscles and stuff like that. So I told him, 'Jeez, you're looking absolutely terrific. You been lifting weights all summer or something?' And Dawkins pulls himself up sort of proudly and says, yes, he certainly had. And so I told him, 'O.K., big guy, you want to lift me?' I'd like to have had him start the season with a hernia."
He grins again, a large graying man, his eyes owlish as ever behind thick glasses. No matter how he plays it, his sense of mission shines through. As Layden goes, so goes his team.
Maybe Barbara sums it up best. "This is a wonderful new life for us in Utah," she says. "But, sure enough, it's the same old Frank."