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Greg & Utah Part 2

On the first of this month I posted something about Greg Miller. It took a while for me to compose that piece: partly because I’m not a professional journalist, but also because I had to vacillate quite a bit on a number of points. And sadly, a number of those points were based upon theories and speculation. The outcome of that one piece, arguably the article that I wrote which spread around the internet the most, caused some unintended ripples through the community I care about – the Utah Jazz community. Long story short, I got a chance to discuss that piece with the big man in the photoshopped image above. I learned a few things from that talk. The first was that I needed to work on my writing ability. The second was that one article about Greg Miller wasn’t enough to do the man, and this subject, justice.

Necessary Preamble:

Before I go too far into what Mr. Miller graciously shared with me I need to talk about the previous post. I wasn’t happy with it when I wrote it. I wasn’t happy with it when I posted it. And I’m still not happy with it twenty days later. After talking with Mr. Miller we were able to identify confusing bits that just NEEDED to be clarified. No way should this post, or any changes to the original, be seen as The Miller family coming down hard on an opinion piece. In fact, I can swear upon my love of the Jazz that Greg told me that the purpose of our conversation was not to elicit any changes in what I wrote. So this is purely from my desire to be a better writer, and to endeavor to report with less speculation and have a greater responsibility towards the accuracy of what I do write. Newspaper reporters do not get a chance to make massive changes to something after their deadline has passed. As an internet blogger I have this opportunity and I’m going to take it.

This, as Tracy McGrady would suggest, is ‘on me.’

Corrections / Clarifications:

The first paragraph of the "Perception vs. Reality" section is a major train wreck of a paragraph. Here it is from the original:

Perception vs. Reality

I don’t see Greg Miller at every home game. I don’t see Greg Miller yell at players when they are playing poorly. I don’t see Greg Miller get into fights with fans in the stands. (Scroll up to see something you may have missed) But by the same token, I don’t see that Greg Miller is making the calls to the Jazz brass to get status reports on injured players. I don’t see that Greg Miller is going into the locker room at halftime and after games. I don’t see that Greg Miller is not being expressive and extroverted because he doesn’t care; rather, I do see him keep his cool because that’s just him.

Frankly, I am embarrassed that a key point of my article was misunderstood by the man I was trying to defend. As a result, here is the Amar-deemed necessary clarification. The key part of this paragraph was supposed to be led by the ending of the previous section:

" . . . it’s very easy for someone far from the situation to wildly postulate on Greg Miller. I’ve been guilty of it before. But I think it’s even more important for someone far from the situation to also admit there’s just so much I don’t see . . ."

Because I’m not a professional writer I was not clever enough to bring that part back into the Perception vs. Reality section. I meant that there may be a lot of things I do not see Greg Miller doing – but that does not mean he’s not doing precisely those very things. It just means that from my distance as a fan (especially one who does not live in the Beehive state) I am pretty much unable to see ANYTHING that Greg Miller is doing.

Yes, part of it is because Greg does not make a spectacle of himself in public; but a greater part of it is the distance. As a fan it’s easy to yell and complain. But as a fan, sometimes, this comes at the expense of really knowing what’s going on with your team. As an example, I knew that Mr. Miller goes into the locker room at halftime and after games. He even used to tweet from the locker room. I *know* these things because I’m an insane Jazz fanatic. The average fan, whose voice I was trying to speak for in the "I don’t see Greg Miller …" section would not see these things. However, that average fan would still feel the need to attack him via the internet. And I still feel like a twitter attack on Greg Miller is both petty and a product of ignorance. Yet he continues to keep his account open to the public and exposes himself this way.

Do you know how many NBA owners / CEO’s are on twitter? I found out, but I think you should do the work yourself. Here’s the list of NBA team owners – find them on twitter. How many that are ON twitter even have public profiles? Perhaps the greatest lesson from my failed "Perception vs. Reality" section is that we perceived Greg to be different from his dad. And this is because the things Greg does often gets over looked. He’s not going to be wearing retro Jazz shorts on the court like his dad did (yet...). But he’s opened up a channel of communication with ALL JAZZ FANS by even being on twitter. We may not all know this guy, but as I said in the previous article, we owe it to get to know this guy.

About twitter

Greg is on twitter. He’s on there not as the CEO of the Larry H. Miller group of companies. He’s not on there as the head of the Utah Jazz. It’s not an official position dictated twitter account. As a result, it is bereft of the limitations a red-taped twitter account would have. It really is Greg in Utah. Take a look at his twitter bio sometime. As a result, not all of his tweets are going to be Utah Jazz related. Our unreasonable expectation that all of Mr. Miller’s tweets should be about the Jazz are as crazy as a Toyota fan’s expectation that all of Mr. Miller’s tweets should be about his car dealerships. After all, the Jazz are just one of the many things Greg has to be on top of in his professional life. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the rub. Greg Miller’s twitter life isn’t a professional vehicle for one sided communication. A man who could snap his fingers and summon a press conference does not need a free internet social media network to make official pronouncements. His twitter account is a personal, off the clock, form of two way communication. Growing up a Jazz fan I would have loved the opportunity to thank Larry H. Miller for doing so much for the team I love. Greg affords all Jazz fans that opportunity via this twitter account – but even that we take for granted. I know I have, and I now feel bad about that.

Behind the scenes does not mean "not in the scene"

Greg is not as outwardly, publically, demonstrative as his father. That does not mean he’s not very passionate, or even capable of being hot headed at times. After talking with him I’m very reassured that our team is in great hands. When you are the CEO of a company worth about half a billion it is fair to say that your time is money. And Greg Miller put his money where his mouth is by talking to me for an hour during the middle of the day. You can tell he loves the Jazz by the fact that he took time out of his busy Monday to speak for so long to a fan about the team.

He did not have to do that at all. Yet he did. And he did so because he cares. He cares about the Jazz, and it could be assumed that he cares very deeply about making the right moves as well. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the stuff he does would agree. This is a guy who offered court side seats to some guy running his mouth (fingers?) off at him on twitter. During our conversation Mr. Miller freely offered up insights that I know I’d never have gotten if I was a Lakers fan writing about Dr. Jerry Buss, or a Knicks fan writing about James Dolan. I learned that he had to miss a few home games this year because of NBA mandated Owners meetings in New York. He’s a guy who actively plans his schedule to maintain all of his other businesses around Jazz home games. I did not know that. I can easily forgive him for missing Devin Harris’ first Jazz home game because he’s attending a charity event that he can’t force multinational corporations and international agencies to reschedule. Other situations that kept him out of his seat in the ESA were meetings in Germany and, of course, being forced to endure evenings with David Stern. Do you know how many Jazz home games I went to this year? Zero. I'm not even going to begin to talk about the road trips that Miller gets on. Other owners / CEO’s have a much worse attendance record than he had. We should remember, though, that not being seen doesn’t mean not actually being involved.

Who picked up Al Jefferson from the airport and drove him around town? Greg Miller didn’t send some Jazz ballboys to do it. He picked him up himself. Can you imagine Jerry Reinsdorf picking up Carlos Boozer from O’Hare and driving him into town? Did Paul Allen port Wesley Matthews’ bags into the trunk of his car and help him get settled in? Nope. These are anecdotal examples of little things that Greg Miller does that we, fans who are far from the situation, never really get to see. Miller doesn’t publicize himself. He’s not into self-promotion. He’s into running a number of franchises that have moved from Stage 1 (creation) into Stage 2 (self-sustained growth). And he does it with a personal touch that’s perhaps too subtle for us to recognize at times.

Stage 2

The Jazz as the Utah Jazz are clearly in Stage 2. This is a franchise that’s gone to the Western Conference Finals a number of times with different core rosters. This is a franchise that has now had 2.5 GENERATIONS of fans grow up to love the team. (Really, the numbers are very telling…) This is a team that needs to be run differently than it needed to be run before. The Stage 1 business needs to be lead by a dreamer, a visionary, and an idealist. That was Larry H. Miller. Yes, he was also a hard worker and pragmatic. He was more qualities than I could ever write. But with the changing dynamics of both the world economy and the NBA culture that type of leader would not be able to do the job as well as a leader who had the qualities to run a number of organizations under Stage 2 doctrines. I’m not a business guy, and I’m far from a realist. But I do know a guy who is, and his name is Greg Miller. Being a business guy and being a realist doesn’t make him cold nor does it make him anti-fan. Let’s not forget that he was one of the only small-market franchise owners who went to bat to keep the Sacramento Kings out of the greater Los Angeles media market.

I know that he can’t say everything out in the open, and he’s not the kind of guy to tell tales out of school. I, on the other hand, play the part of a jerk on the internet. And my independent research has led to individual, anonymous confirmations of a number of facts by Jazz insiders. As a result I wanted to come out and say that out of all of the "bad things" to happen to our beloved franchise over the past 5 seasons very few of them (if any at all) can be blamed on Mr. Greg Miller. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of all of the "good things" have been overseen by the very same Greg Miller. Even all the small things add up. Keeping the Kings in a small market; attempting to develop positive relationships with Jazz players (which are sadly not always reciprocated); pulling the trigger on an unpopular transaction in order to sustain future growth; even going out there to talk to some crazy guy in Detroit who contributes to a fan blog – these are all examples of Greg Miller being involved, working on the Jazz in Stage 2, and making the right moves.

Thank you again Greg Miller, the Miller Family, and the rest of the hard working people at the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. You all endeavor to make the Jazz the best version of the Jazz possible. As a Jazz fan for life I can’t ask for more.

But you know I wouldn’t mind a title. I know that’s exactly that you are working on though, so I don’t even need to ask.