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Some thoughts on and bits I liked from “Driven”

June 8, 2010
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–In the introduction, Doug Robinson wrote that in the week that LHM passed, “A stranger approached me in the gym that week to say, “The thing that surprised me is the emotion I felt about his death. I didn’t even know him.” That describes me to a T. I had no connection to Larry Miller apart from him being the owner of the Jazz (especially since I’ve never been to Utah), and that week, I couldn’t figure out why the tears kept falling. As I read about his death, the tears came again–and that was just from the preface, not the chapter at the end of the book titled “The Long Goodbye.”

–Part of the book is, of course, about the Jazz. Most of it isn’t. I may very well be the least business-minded person on earth, and my preferred genre tends towards the mindless and superficial, but the pages flew by and I couldn’t put it down–which I have to say surprised me.

–This book is required reading for real Jazz fans. I don’t think the average fan knows how close–literally minutes–the Jazz came to leaving Utah forever. I don’t think the average fan knows what LHM risked–literally everything he owned–to build the Delta Center in order to create new revenue streams and keep the team profitable under the new collective bargaining agreement, which would see player salaries skyrocket. These are actually completely amazing stories, but I won’t go into the details here. Go read the book.

–One thing I’ve often wondered, even before “Driven” was announced, was when and how the Jazz went from being a business investment/community gift (LHM often said that he purchased the team believing that Utah would not get another NBA franchise in his lifetime, and he felt a responsibility to keep the Jazz in Utah for the community) to an emotional investment. We’ve all seen LHM–fiery passion and fanatical, just like the rest of us–at games. How did that happen?

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t really answer that question, perhaps due to the project getting cut short when LHM died. All there was, was this small paragraph:

“I bought the Jazz to keep them in the community, but later of course I became swept up with the team like everyone else. If you can’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be doing it; there are easier and better ways to make money.”

–Following the altercation with the Nuggets fans in 1994, LHM called a press conference to apologize and said that he would need to take a step back if his fandom prevented him from having good judgment. Gail later said, “After the incident with the fan, Larry said he needed to pull back and not get so emotionally involved–for everyone’s sake. It didn’t really last too long, though, before he was right back out there with the team before games.”

Maybe that’s what it was then, that made him so relatable to me and feel like I really did know him. The way he was involved with the team, the way he cheered and screamed, the way he got emotional, the way he was a fan–you don’t see that with other NBA owners. No matter how disgruntled, frustrated, or angry I get at the team, no matter how many times I throw my arms up in the air and vow to quit the Jazz, I can’t ever stay away–not even for one game. By the next game night, I’m always right back where I’m supposed to be, in front of my computer or TV. Perhaps disgruntled and shouting way too much at the screen, but I’m there because it would kill me not to be.

–Did you know that Larry planted daffodils and roses outside the Delta Center for Gail, because those are her favorite flowers?

–Speaking of Gail, wow. What a lady. She certainly is, as I have often heard her described, a rock. I don’t know how many women, much less people, would have stayed in a marriage–especially today–where she was raising five children and one grandchild basically on her own while any one of a number of business deals could have taken away everything they owned in the blink of an eye. That said, I think the two of them complemented each other very well, and their similar (humble) backgrounds helped them keep each other grounded.

–LHM was Every Man. Remember the time he showed up on Retro Night in a Jazz note uni complete with short shorts and headband? He could laugh at himself, and he was every bit as much a fan as the rest of us. He also insisted that players call him by his first name (which Jarron Collins could never do). If Deron called him “Mr. Miller,” he called Deron “Mr. Williams.” Karl Malone affectionately called him “Mr. Larry.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time was Gregg Popovich describing the perfect Spur: “People who have gotten over themselves.” Well, despite everything he achieved, the empire he built, and his massive charitable endeavors, LHM was over himself.

–A few years ago, LHM set up the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation. After all of the Miller grandchildren have passed away, ownership of all of the family’s assets, including the Jazz, will be transferred to the Foundation so that their money can continue to be used “to do good things.”

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