Jazz name Jim Olson new team president, who says he’ll prioritize fan experience

(Photo courtesy of Larry H. Miller Group of Companies) Jim Olson was named president of the Utah Jazz and of Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment on Oct. 4, 2019.

The Jazz appointed a new team president on Monday, but don’t expect sweeping changes.

Jim Olson, a 25-year employee of the Larry H. Miller organization, was named the new president of the Utah Jazz and of Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment (LHMSE), it was announced Friday.

Olson replaces Steve Starks, who earlier this year was named chief executive officer of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

Olson most recently served as the executive vice president for LHMSE and as the president of Vivint Smart Home Arena. He will now oversee the day-to-day operations of the Jazz, and will also be responsible for such organizational entities as Megaplex Theatres, Vivint Smart Home Arena, the Salt Lake Bees, Salt Lake City Stars, Jazz Gaming NBA 2K, The Zone Sports Network, and the Tour of Utah.

The Salt Lake City native started his sports business career as a teenager in the ticketing offices of the University of Utah, before eventually working in a “basement office” at Vivint Arena, selling tickets there. He’s moved his way up the organization since, spending time as VP of ticket sales, then sales and marketing, before becoming COO of LHMSE in 2013. Olson also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and a master’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston.

His pitch to owner Gail Miller and a team of LHM executives was primarily centered around finding ways to satisfy and grow a team fanbase that has pushed the Jazz to new levels of profitability in recent years.

“He has articulated a compelling long-term strategy to give back to the community, constantly innovate, improve the fan experience, and win an NBA championship,” Miller said in a prepared statement.

Olson confirmed that in a press conference Monday. “We intend to be the best arena and provide the best fan experience of any entertainment arena or stadium in the country,” Olson said.

Outside of the arena experience, Olson said that the team wants to continue to build its fanbase digitally.

“We want to be innovative. We love living in this digital age,” Olson said. “And as we continue to look for ways to innovate, the technology is a great tool and we’re going to continue to embrace that.”

Priority No. 1 there will have to be getting a TV deal that includes streaming capabilities for the majority of local fans. The current TV deal, which pays the Jazz about $20 million per season and was signed in 2009, expires in 2021. But thanks to a slow-moving AT&T SportsNet, streaming the games continues to not be an option for a majority of local fans.

Olson said that they’re already in discussions with potential partners with regards to a new TV deal, though he was reluctant to share specifics. “Moving forward, there’ll be some new elements to it and we look forward to seeing how that shakes out in a couple of years."

But you shouldn’t anticipate many changes throughout the Jazz’s organization. For one, Olson figures to be very focused on his duties leading the business side of the Jazz, more so than Starks, who did spend significant time with Dennis Lindsey’s basketball operations department. Starks will maintain that part of his role even as CEO of all of LHM’s businesses.

There’s also this: the Jazz have been relatively successful in both business and basketball, and look to be on the rise in both departments. Messing with that too much now, Olson knows, would be a mistake.

“Ultimately our goal is to win an NBA championship. And with Steve’s direction and Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik, Quin Snyder, and Steve [Starks], they’ve put the team together," Olson said. “Knowing the team that we have in place gives me all the confidence in the world that we’ll get it done along those lines.”