It was in New York City on Thursday that David Stern announced his plan to step down as NBA commissioner. But the move reverberated across the basketball world, including in Salt Lake City, where Stern, who was close with late Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, is considered a friend of the small-market franchise.
“As the story goes,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said, “he and Mr. Miller here were very close, and I still think the trust between the Miller family and David is there.”
At the conclusion of the NBA Board of Governors meetings in New York, Stern, 70, announced plans to step down on Feb. 1, 2014 — 30 years to the day since he was hired. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver, most famous to the outside world as the man who announces second-round draft picks, was tabbed to replace the commissioner.
“My predominant goal is just to assure that there is a seamless tradition in the change in leadership,” Stern said, “while driving the league forward in the variety of initiatives that are currently ongoing. And just to make sure that nothing gets dropped or lost.”
In his 30 years, Stern oversaw perhaps the most stunning transformation in the history of professional sports. The NBA became a global brand with trendsetting broadcast deals, its own network and offices throughout the world.
“Look at the league when he first got in, and look at it now,” Jazz center Al Jefferson said. “I think he did a hell of a job and he can retire on top.”
In collective bargaining agreement negotiations last year, Stern represented the owners and found himself at odds with the players, leading to a lockout-shortened, 66-game season.
“I think he had to be tough,” Jefferson said. “He did the job he had to do, and I think it worked out for everybody.”
In a prepared statement, Jazz CEO Greg Miller called Stern “fair and objective” and said he “demonstrated a sincere interest in the well-being of our franchise.”
“On behalf of the Larry Miller family I would like to express gratitude to David for all he has done to help build and strengthen the Utah Jazz,” Miller said, “and wish him a healthy and happy future.”
Stern said he didn’t want to call his departure from leadership “retirement,” preferring the term “stepped down.” He said he will remain affiliated with the NBA, perhaps in an ambassador role and be most closely tied to international efforts.
It all makes sense to Lindsey, who said he couldn’t imagine Stern not working for the league in some capacity.
“I’m sure he’ll be a great ambassador and maybe a deal-maker behind the scene,” he said. “I bet that if you catch him in a quiet, truthful moment he’ll probably enjoy coming in and being good cop to seal a deal, instead of always having to fight constantly.”