New York • NBA commissioner David Stern said Monday he wants the recent war of words between Jazz CEO Greg Miller and ex-Utah forward Karl Malone "put to rest."
Less than three days after Miller used Twitter to call Malone a liar and then wrote a lengthy blog post ripping the first-ballot Hall of Famer, Stern acknowledged it’s been painful to watch their fiery standoff from afar. The commissioner wants their public dispute to end, and hopes they will unite in the future and find common ground.
"I’m looking forward to the next meeting between Greg and Karl," said Stern, during an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Salt Lake Tribune at the league office. "Not for the sparks that I expect will fly, but for the calming that I think will and should occur. Because [Malone’s] meant so much to the franchise and the city over the years and to the Miller family, and the Miller family has meant so much to the franchise and the city for so many years."
Stern referred to Malone as an "old friend" and greatly respects his achievements as a player. During a 19-year career that featured 18 seasons in a Jazz uniform, Malone teamed with fellow Hall of Famer John Stockton to twice guide Utah to the NBA Finals. Malone ended his run ranked No. 2 on the league’s all-time scoring list and twice won most valuable player.
"He’s got his statue [outside EnergySolutions Arena], which I think he deserved," Stern said.
But the commissioner took issue with Malone’s assertion during a radio interview Jan. 27 with a Tribune columnist that Miller and Jazz General Manager Kevin O’Connor undermined legendary Utah coach Jerry Sloan, who resigned along with longtime assistant Phil Johnson on Feb. 10, 2011.
Sloan released a statement Saturday through the Jazz, saying he had full support from the Miller family and left mid-season on his own volition. The statement did not mention O’Connor or former Utah guard Deron Williams, though. Sloan often sparred with Williams, an All-Star who was traded 13 days after Sloan stepped down.
"A lot of [Malone’s] charm is that he speaks his mind," Stern said. "But on this one, where Jerry has given his statement and Greg his given his statement — and they were there and they were in the room ... I’m not sure why Karl has put himself in the position of saying, ‘I don’t know the facts but I know what happened.’ When, in fact, he couldn’t have."
Malone has maintained contact with Sloan since he resigned. He told The Tribune on Saturday he stands by his statements.
"I don’t regret what I said," Malone said. "It’s what I believe about coach Sloan."
Stern isn’t the only one hoping for an eventual reconciliation between Malone, Miller and the Jazz. Stockton told The Tribune he’s concerned the public dispute could "tarnish" what the small-market franchise accomplished during the organization’s golden era.
"What we all shared is so special," Stockton said. "I just hope this can be resolved, because it was a special time for me and for everyone."
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