Even in death, as he did in life, Larry Miller continues to rank among Utah’s greatest assets, as much a signature of his home state as the beautiful, towering mountains and the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere.
One month short of the eighth anniversary of dying at age 64, Miller’s family made a decision that will keep his name etched in the hearts of Utah’s residents for countless generations to come. In an unprecedented move, the Millers on Monday announced the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena have been transferred into a Legacy Trust.
With the ownership transfer, Miller’s wife, Gail, and their children will keep all management functions and operations of the Jazz. The trust will be managed by the family for generations and will not provide any financial benefit to the family.
To simplify the legalese, Miller’s dream of keeping the NBA franchise exactly where he always envisioned has been realized. Once and for all, forget and ignore those silly rumors the team was going to be sold and moved to Seattle, Las Vegas or Mars.
“We’ve been clear from the beginning that our mission has been to ensure that the Utah Jazz stay in Utah,” said Gail Miller. “All of us see the Jazz as a community asset and a rallying point for the people of Utah.”
A part of family estate planning, she said the family has been working on this move for more than one year and it should last forever. NBA approval came late last week.
Whatever your inclinations are, you’ve got to believe Mr. Utah is somewhere smiling at his family’s decision.
And Jazz fans everywhere should follow suit. This was an historic day for the franchise, ranking right below moving the team from New Orleans in 1979 and the Miller family taking over full ownership seven years later.
Instead of selling the team, and in the process making staggering amounts of money far beyond the original investments of $22 million, the Millers have decided to go this unusual route. The structure of the team, as it has been for decades, will remain the same.
“The Jazz are a part of me,” said oldest son, Greg, who represents the ownership at the league’s board of governor’s meetings. “It’s hard for me to quantify what the Jazz mean to me because they’ve been a part of my life for so long. It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like going through a winter without the Utah Jazz. It’s hard to imagine the hole they would leave if they weren’t a part of my life.”
For the passionate Jazz fan, the most important aspect of the news is the basketball part will go unchanged. Ownership’s commitment to competing for an NBA championship is still the objective.
During Larry Miller’s time as the owner, team executives would report to him on all matters involving player transactions. For example, when the Jazz signed free agents Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur several years ago, former general manager Kevin O’Connor ran the possibilities past Miller and quickly got approval.
Dennis Lindsey, the team’s current general manager, has the same authority and access to ownership as his predecessor. Team president Steve Starks said Jazz management will still be able to make decisions quickly, often within 30 minutes if necessary, following the same chain of command as always.
In addition to creating the trust to keep the franchise in Utah, Larry Miller also would be pleased at the team’s current outlook. As it stands, the Jazz almost assuredly will make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Overall, accounting for the ownership decision and team’s competitiveness, this is a good time for the Miller family. The husband, dad and grandfather would be happy.
“I’m hoping he’d say, “Good job Gail,’ but you never know,” Gail Miller said. “He was always planning for the future. He was always wanted to make sure things were done the way they should be done. I’m confident that he would feel good about it.”
No doubt about it.