Posted by: David J. Smith on January 7th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
When you wake up each morning, you never know what might transpire that day.
Such was the case Friday for me. I did not expect to receive a tweet from Utah Jazz owner Greg Miller. I did not expect to go to that evening’s Utah/Memphis Grizzlies tilt. I did not expect—ever—to sit on the front row with Greg just two feet away from head coach Tyrone Corbin.
Yet all that happened. Pardon me while I pinch myself. Heaven knows I did it enough last night.
As my good friends Diana Allen and Clint Peterson have already so wonderfully relayed, the three of us were presented the gift of having a dream come true by Greg Miller. We were invited to join him for a more memorable, magical night at EnergySolutions Arena.
At 8:15 a.m., I noticed that Greg (@GreginUtah) followed me on Twitter, which I thought was wonderful in itself. Two minutes, at 8:17 a.m., I received the following message:
GregInUtah Greg Miller
I sat in my office dumbfounded, wondering if this was really happening. Like any sane person would, I quickly sent him a direct message with the requested information and an hour later, I was on the phone with Greg’s assistant getting instructions for an evening I had only before dreamed of.
Having left our home in Springville with time to spare, I arrived at ESA early and waited patiently (perhaps patiently isn’t the best word to use here). Just after 6:00 p.m., Clint and I were beckoned to come on through and there was Greg Miller, who greeted us with a big smile and a warm handshake. Unbelievable.
We chatted for a minute and then headed down to the Lexus Room for a dinner. While the food was spectacular and the accommodations top-notch, the highlight for me was the time spent with Greg. We talked about many things, both basketball-related and not.
He asked us about our backgrounds, our jobs, and our families and took genuine interest in all that we shared. Greg mentioned that he knew how passionate we were about the Jazz, as evidenced by our blogs and constant tweeting. He said that we were ones who understood what the Jazz are about and what they are trying to accomplish.
Greg told us about his family, rightfully an obvious source of pride for him. He shared his admiration and love for his father, saying that he too learned a lot reading Larry’s autobiography—even though he “lived it.” He emphasized to us how honest and upright Larry was in all his business endeavors and how the whole family always has felt that the Utah Jazz was a gift to the state of Utah.
I’ll speak for us all, Greg, it’s a gift that keeps on giving and not just for Utahns, but for Jazz fans all around the world.
He talked about his passion for the Miller family’s businesses, his vehicles, and the travels he’s taken recently. We discussed the current roster and Greg expressed great confidence in Kevin O’Connor, Randy Rigby, and Tyrone Corbin. He is very excited to see how our young bucks—Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and Enes Kanter—develop. He marveled at how uncannily young Favors and Kanter’s physique reminds him of another player…a guy named Karl Malone.
Speaking of Karl, Greg shared thoughts about him and John Stockton. He reminisced about how much they mean to the franchise. It’s not a secret, but he talked about how much John could’ve made on the open market, but felt genuine loyalty to the franchise and was very comfortable raising his family in Utah. As a result #12 resigned multiple times for less than he could have garnered elsewhere. As if we needed any more reasons to love John Stockton. Greg wondered aloud if we’ll ever see anything like John and Karl—players who play long careers with one franchise. There are some realities that the Utah Jazz face and will always face.
Greg also mentioned several other prolific Jazz fans who share their thought often on Twitter and other social media forums. And he mentioned them by their Twitter handles! He truly pays attention to what is said out there, both positive and negative. He does appreciate passion (which is, in my opinion, always better than apathy).
We chatted about many other things, from players to hobbies. The whole time, Greg was utterly down-to-earth and we had a delightful conversation. I have never met another NBA owner, but I highly doubt they are like Greg at all. He even presented us with a wonderful gift: sterling silver Jazz lapel pins. Very honored.
We took a quick opportunity to snap some photos together and then right before the tip-off, Greg took us to the doorway of the Jazz locker room to see Larry’s iconic sign which reads:
“Nobody laid down, nobody quit,
nobody left anything in the locker room.
It was all out there on the floor…
I’ve always said to our guys,
‘I’ll never ask you to win, but I will ask you
to give us everything you’ve got.’”
-Larry H. Miller
As we did so, Raja Bell darted by, but gave us a gracious smile and a hello.
As we followed Greg to our seats, we were greeted with a most surreal scene: the lights out, Bear revving his motorcycle, and all 13 Jazz players standing right in front of us. The introductions brought goose bumps. And there we were, on the front row. (In fact, I was sitting in the exact same seat Governor Gary Herbert was the previous game.)
Some observations I had during the game:
- We all know these NBA players are big, but sakes alive, seeing guys like Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Marc Gasol, and Enes Kanter had me awestruck. Likewise, to see the absolute speed of these athletes up close was a treat. Oh, and the court looked so small.
- Our coaching staff was working just as hard as the players were. Tyrone Corbin paced the sidelines constantly. When good things happened, he cheered just as loud as the ESA crowd did. When refs made dubious calls, he was there sticking up for his guys. There were even a few instances where some feet were stomped right in front of us (and I loved it!). Loved seeing the assistant coaches—Sidney Lowe, Scott Layden, and one of my idols, Jeff Hornacek—putting their arms around our players, giving them pointers and encouragement. And what a sharply dressed bunch.
- Gary Briggs’ magic spray was on the scorer’s table the whole time. I totally wanted to sneak a peak at it!
- Jamaal Tinsley was the first guy to greet his teammates at every timeout. He also was talking often with the young guys. Love seeing that.
- For the Grizzlies, Tony Allen has a little Ron Artest in him, but he was thoroughly entertaining. He is energetic and gives it his all every play. Also, Marc Gasol is as skilled a big man as there is. His footwork and skills were stellar up close.
- It was neat to see Devin Harris and Earl Watson constantly communicating with Tyrone. There was eye contact every play down. Watson especially was a coach on the floor and it was fantastic seeing the way he lead the team from behind twice.
- Alec Burks is the real deal. I’ll leave it at that.
- Watching the refs up close brought new appreciation. What a remarkably tough job.
- No team has fans like the Jazz. We just have intelligent, supporting fans who genuinely appreciate effort and hustle. There were several instances where our players dove on the floor or deflected the ball. Every such play was applauded. The fourth quarter was euphoric as our team made the plays they needed to on their way to victory. After all, could they possibly lose with us there as Greg’s guests? I think not.
- There’s so much more I could say, but we’ll leave it that.
Along the way, we were able to meet some great people. As we came in, who was there? None other than Jazz legend Frank Layden. He was as gregarious and outgoing as ever, as he talked to us for a few minutes. Randy Rigby was one table over during dinner and we were able to visit with him briefly. After the game, Craig Bolerjack and Matt Harpring, one of my all-time favorites, came and said hi to us and posed for a few more photo ops. We also met or were greeted by Ben Bagley, Deseret News beat writer Jody Genessy (who I assist by providing each Jazz game’s instant analysis for the DesNews; here is my report for the Memphis/Utah game), Salt City Hoops’ Spencer Hall, assistant trainer Brian Zettler, and even coach Ron McBride.
Steve Brown came down and visited with Greg and us during a break and during the third quarter, did a nice little mini story on the three of us and our once-in-a-lifetimes experience with Greg Miller. It highlighted an organization who (a) have openly embraced social media and (b) appreciates its fans.
Thank you to all our Twitter family for the messages, photos, etc. It took me hours to go through my time line, not to mention the battery of texts, Facebook messages, and voice mails.
When the buzzer sounded, Greg politely excused himself, but not before thanking us for joining him.
And I now take the opportunity to once again thank the epitome of class, Greg Miller and our Utah Jazz.
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