Donovan Mitchell has said it. Rudy Gobert has said it. Now, in a most specific way, Gail Miller has said it, too.
The Utah Jazz intend to win an NBA championship.
“Absolutely,” the Jazz owner said.
Not a decade from now, but … now. Not now, as in right this second, not the here and now, but now, as in while we’re young; now, as in the next few seasons; now, as in, as George Allen once put it, the future is now.
And there are few sweeter words uttered by a professional sports team owner than those, especially when they come from both head and heart, when they come after an aggressive offseason like this one. Miller’s aim isn’t to simply keep the team kind of good, profitable, respectable, competitive and viable enough to gain sponsors, sell tickets and stir community interest.
It is, rather, to finally climb to the top of the league, to conquer it, to reign over it. The time, in the aforementioned sense, is right. The management is there. The players are there. The coaching is there. The fans have always been there. The karma should be there. The desire is as strong as it’s ever been.
Asked on my radio show about that aspiration/intention, Miller said:
“With 30 teams in the NBA, there can only be one championship, but I think every 30 years, you ought to have one. It’s our turn. I think we’ve built up to it, we understand what it takes, we’ve put everything in place for it, we’ve given them all the tools they need, brought in the players who I think can do it. There’s no reason why we can’t have that expectation. I don’t know that it will come this year, but I do believe we’ll get there.”
Reading into those words, it’s apparent that the pragmatic Jazz owner, whose philosophies are couched in following certain principles to gain a certain goal, and that if rocksteady acumen and values are adhered to and applied, the equation will spit out a proper equal sum, believes the decisions and sacrifices and investments made — the 2 + 2 — will add up to the expected result: the 4.
Even in the turbo-competitive environment that is the NBA, an environment that at times seems to lean away from a smaller-market team, she does not see the Jazz as any kind of disadvantaged entity. The acumen and the values present can lead them to a title.
“I’ve never hesitated to say that,” she once told me. “You play to win the game. You play to win a championship.”
“I think we’ve built up to it, we understand what it takes, we’ve put everything in place for it, we’ve given them all the tools they need, brought in the players who I think can do it. There’s no reason why we can’t have that expectation.”
— Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller
If you listen closely, you can almost hear the voice of Miller’s late husband, Larry, in those words. He was one of the most competitive people anybody’s ever come across, a driving force, along with Gail, behind the establishment and growth of the parent company of the Jazz, the LHM Group.
When Larry’s health was in decline, he used to come home from work, soak himself in a large bath tub, as Gail sat on the floor nearby, listening to what he had to say, learning most aspects of his expansive business, including about the Jazz. She processed all sorts of information and remembered it.
But those are not Larry’s words, they are Gail’s. And she’s the chief competitor who has sat at the head of the Jazz table for a long time now. She’s the one who ultimately approves every move the club makes — providing money for the enhanced practice facility and the renovated arena, for the deals the club makes, including the most recent ones which have positioned the franchise now to contend for a title.
Which is to say, this is Gail Miller’s team as much as it is Quin Snyder’s — with a roster that includes Mitchell, Gobert, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Jeff Green, Ed Davis and all the rest.
She is fully convinced it is on the edge of something extraordinary.
And, as Dennis Lindsey once said it, he sometimes in his quiet moments wonders after all these years what it would feel like to hand the universally respected Miller the Larry O’Brien Trophy — it would feel great, he imagines — and what it would feel like to disappoint her. It would not feel great.
Well. Her expectations are where they are now, soaring, as is her belief in and her excitement for her team.
Asked a while back to describe Gail’s no-nonsense powers of discernment in all matters, Miller’s son, Steve, uttered, among others, these two sentences: “She’s smart, perceptive, and can connect the dots. She almost has a sixth sense about things.”
That sixth sense sees now what the Jazz and all their fans so longingly hope to see: A trophy hoisted in the arena she helped build.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.