With UFC 278 coming to Salt Lake City on Aug. 20, Utah Jazz and Vivint Arena owner Ryan Smith took part in a news conference alongside UFC president Dana White to promote the event. Afterward, Smith agreed to participate in a scrum-style Q&A which, naturally, consisted almost entirely of questions about the Jazz.
Over the course of 12 or so minutes, he was asked about myriad subjects of interest about the team, including the blowback to the Jazz’s rebrand, the possibility of acquiring a pick for Thursday’s NBA Draft, and the process of how this offseason will unfold via trades and free agency. Here are some of the highlights:
How did he take the general fan disdain for the rebrand/new jerseys?
“Did they [react negatively]?” he began facetiously. “I love our fans. Fan is short for fanatic. We have an incredible fanbase. … If you take a step back, our goal with our rebrand is to say, first, we wanted to bring purple back. I know people say that’s an afterthought … [but] we’re gonna release four purple jerseys in the next 36 months. I also believe that we want to get a cleaner, simplified look … and have a unified color scheme that we can work with throughout the state.
“The data showed that purple was the No. 1 purchase online, and then when people got into the store, it was black and yellow, which was interesting. Look, it’s an evolution. Brands are going to evolve. There’s probably a fair argument we went a little too clean. OK. But it will evolve.”
What’s his willingness to buy a pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, given that the Jazz don’t have one?
“I’ve been in the draft room twice, and both times they’ve asked to acquire pick and [for me] to pay the money. So absolutely. Everyone wants to try to figure out if there’s a young talent [who can help us], especially with Danny [Ainge]’s track record. I mean, I’d love to see if he had as many picks as possible. But it’s a marketplace, so it has to be right.”
How is the search for Quin Snyder’s replacement progressing?
“I checked in [Monday] night and [Tuesday] morning, and I think Danny and Justin [Zanik] are doing a great job. I trust them and we trust them with 100% confidence. … The good news is, there’s a lot of phenomenal coaches in the NBA.
“… Danny set [the timeline] up in the press conference. That was not my timeline — he was pretty direct on what that timeline would be. That’s what he’s here for — he’s here to lead, and my job is to empower him. … I’m really not [involved with early interviews], to be honest with you. I believe that you hire the best and you empower ’em. I don’t think there’s a better basketball brain than Danny, he’s definitely on the Mount Rushmore of NBA executives.”
(For the record, Ainge actually did not give a timeline in Snyder’s farewell news conference, other than to say the team would be thorough and had to get the hire right. In a later interview with team radio voice David Locke, Ainge mentioned that Zanik told him the process to hire Snyder in 2014 took about six weeks, and added, “I think we’re in a similar boat.”)
With speculation of a coming roster reset, how extensive have conversations been with other teams?
“Look, the beauty of the NBA is the offseason is just as exciting as the regular season. There’s a lot written out there and I laugh half the time, because someone writes one article and then another one comes out [that’s contradictory]. I just kind of sit back and laugh because it’s not even close to the truth. There’s a lot of buzz, and there’s gonna be a lot of buzz this week around every team.”
What’s his willingness for the team to perhaps take a step back if that could mean taking more steps forward?
“One of the things we probably don’t talk about [enough], we were like the fifth-highest payroll in the league this year. We’ve never been over the tax as much as the Jazz went this year. Our business interest is to just go for it, and to have a fanbase that can support that. We’re very aligned on that. What the process is to get there, you just have to be in the situation, and that’s what Danny and Justin are going to work at, to say, ‘What does that look like? What are our options? Can we go forward the same way? What do we need to do?’”
Does seeing the Warriors have success by going deep into the tax every year make him willing to do the same?
“We brought everyone back [this past season] and that was not an easy feat. That probably doesn’t get talked about enough — that it was not easy to get everyone back after that Clippers loss and get everyone dialed in. … I think we showed that we’re willing to go in if we think we can go. We liked the percentages, we liked where we were at, and we owed it to everyone to go run it back that way. Unfortunately, we fell short for whatever reason. But I think there’s probably your answer.”