Jazz: Miller remembered by Jazz players, coaches
As he arrived at EnergySolutions Arena for Saturday's pregame shootaround, Matt Harpring could feel the enormity of losing Jazz owner Larry Miller.
"Once you walk into this building, it reminds me of Larry," said Harpring, in his seventh season with the Jazz. Talking about Miller's familiar courtside seat, Harpring added, "Every time I look over there now, I'm going to remember Larry."
The Jazz players and coaches paid tribute to Miller, who died Friday at age 64 of diabetes-related complications, as a one-of-a-kind owner so much a part of the team that he had his own stall in the corner of the locker room.
"It just shows the support he has for you," Deron Williams said. "To look across the floor and see him sitting there every game, in the locker room interacting with us, and like I said, telling us how he appreciates us after the game, it goes a long way.
"I only see one other owner, [Dallas] Mark Cuban, probably as close to a team as Larry is."
Jerry Sloan broke down Friday talking about Miller, who owned the team for 24 years, with Sloan celebrating his 20th anniversary as Jazz coach in December.
"I guess the biggest thing with me is that I've been pretty lucky to be here as long as I have and he's the main reason for it," Sloan said.
Sloan expressed disappointment at failing to deliver a championship during Miller's life and said he would most miss having him in the locker room. "That's probably the toughest part," Sloan said.
Carlos Boozer said Miller was "amazing" when Boozer's oldest son, Carmani, was battling sickle cell disease. Before Carmani underwent a bone marrow transplant, Miller gave Boozer his support and blessing to be away from the team.
"I wish I could be there for him the same way right now," Boozer said.
After visiting Miller in the hospital on Jan. 26, several Jazz players were convinced he had turned the corner after having his lower legs amputated. Kyle Korver said he "expected to see a man that was really down and out" but Miller was the exact opposite.
He joked about the long faces in the room, talked about building his upper body strength and expressed his desire to make it back to the arena before the end of the season. "We all really believed he would do it," Korver said.
The Jazz had been told to expect Miller at their Feb. 11 victory over the Lakers, but Miller was unable to attend.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor talked to Miller in his final days and said he was proud of the team for remaining in the playoff chase despite an injury-ravaged season. Miller also spoke about the Jazz's importance to Utah going forward.
Much to O'Connor's amazement, Miller watched the Jazz's Jan. 24 loss to Cleveland the night after he underwent the amputation. When O'Connor visited him two days later, Miller cited a handful of plays and calls in the game.
"We lose the leader a little bit," O'Connor said, calling Miller and Sloan the face of the Jazz for the last two decades.
Before he was released from his contract in July 2007, after his infant daughter was stricken with a rare form of eye cancer, Lakers guard Derek Fisher met with Larry and Gail Miler and said he "saw emotion from an owner that I had never seen before."
"Larry Miller was Salt Lake City," Fisher said. "There wasn't much of anything that went on there that he wasn't a part of. We practiced next door to Larry Miller Ford. You could see his dealership from the front of the practice facility. I knew he wasn't in good health, but it was still sad when I heard the news."
The Jazz will consider several permanent tributes to Miller, including retiring the No. 19 - - Miller's softball number - - in his honor and adding a sculpture of Miller to those of Karl Malone and John Stockton on the arena plaza.
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