Scott Layden has had enough jobs and enough titles to know that titles aren’t as important as results.
“I think if you’re looking for credit, you’re in the wrong place,” said Layden, who was introduced as the Timberwolves’ new general manager Tuesday.
And Layden — son of a coach, a basketball lifer — says he feels he is right where he needs to be.
Layden, along with new president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau, was introduced at Target Center. There was a phalanx of media — some who flew in from Chicago, Thibodeau’s most recent NBA coaching stop — team staff and season-ticket holders.
Predictably, platitudes prevailed.
There wasn’t a lot of talk of what the team was going to do or how the Wolves would approach the draft of free agency. And certainly not a lot of specifics on how Thibodeau and Layden would arrive at some of the more difficult decisions (read: Who would ultimately make the call?).
But Layden’s history suggests it will be a smooth process.
The son of Frank Layden — the former Utah coach, president and general manager — knows how to work and get along with strong personalities.
Scott Layden cut his teeth with the Jazz, rising from an administrative assistant to assistant coach to director of player personnel and ultimately director of basketball operations, where he and coach Jerry Sloan worked together to produce a team that had five consecutive 50-plus win seasons in the 1990s and back-to-back Western Conference championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
As Thibodeau joked Tuesday, “Utah was San Antonio before San Antonio.”
For the past four years, Layden has been the assistant GM in San Antonio, where he observed the heady chemistry between coach Gregg Popovich and General Manager R.C. Buford.
In between, he spent a not-so-successful stint in New York as president of the Knicks that included a controversial trade of Patrick Ewing and some questionable high-dollar signings.
But even there, he learned from coach Jeff Van Gundy and became close friends with a Knicks assistant named Thibodeau.
On Tuesday, Layden recalled a story from New York in which his dad, hired to consult with the Knicks, came to the Big Apple. The first person Frank Layden saw was Thibodeau, and the two sat and talked basketball for hours, with Thibodeau taking copious notes.
“The next day, he sees my Dad and he said, ‘I can’t thank you enough,’ ” Scott Layden said. “He had taken his notes, had ’em transcribed and presented it to my Dad. I said, ‘Now there is a student. That’s a guy who is taking this serious.’ ”
And now they’ll work together, starting next week when his Spurs duties are done.
Asked over and over, nobody wanted to say who would arrive at the most difficult decisions. But these two friends have a common goal of making the Wolves better and don’t anticipate much chance for discord.
Thibodeau shared a story about original Wolves owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner. One day he asked Wolfenson about the secret to his success with Ratner. They had to agree on everything, Wolfenson said. If they didn’t, they had to listen to each other state their case. If they couldn’t agree on a move, it wouldn’t happen.
“I’m not saying that’s what we’ll do,” Thibodeau said. “In the end, [Wolves owner Glen Taylor] will probably make the decision, because it’s his money. And we’re going to try to convince him, together, why we need to spend it. … I feel good about this. We’re aligned in how we think. And that’s important.”
For Layden, Minnesota’s lure was the people. He sensed Taylor’s commitment, and it reminded him of former Jazz owner Larry Miller. He knows of Thibodeau’s dedication, and he saw the same in his dad, Sloan and Popovich.
“I think of R.C. and Coach Pop,” Layden said. “They’re first-ballot Hall of Famers. But they’re two of the most humble, modest men our sport knows. That was the thing that, when I went to work there every day, I was energized by it.”