Take Note? New Owner for Utah Jazz


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By Carlos Padilla


News broke Wednesday morning, via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that Gail Miller and the Miller family had agreed to sell the Utah Jazz majority interest.

Gail Miller and her late husband, Larry, have owned the franchise since 1985. Under their watch, the Jazz has won two Western Conference finals, two NBA finals appearances, two Hall of Famers and numerous 50+ win seasons.

The new majority owner, Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith, sold his tech company for an eye-popping $8 billion. Smith purchased the franchise for a reported $1.66 billion, according to the ESPN article. Smith, a Utah native and lifelong Jazz fan, stated he had approached the Miller family on several occasions about purchasing the team until an agreement was finally reached.

With the changing of the guard, Jazz and NBA fans will have their eyes on Vivint to see what the new blood will bring. With Smith being only 40 years old and a tech billionaire, there is one obvious comparison to what might be in store for Utah — could there be a new Mark Cuban on the block?

Cuban, a tech mogul and TV personality, similarly purchased the Dallas Mavericks franchise with proceeds from his tech companies. The famously eccentric owner brought a ring to Dallas shortly after buying the franchise. Known for his enthusiasm, social activism and hands-on interaction with the team, Cuban seems to be an excellent figure for Smith to model.

While Smith will have to forge his own identity as an owner, there are several factors he must address immediately. The Jazz is at a crucial point. Competitive in the ever-challenging Western conference, the Jazz has had four straight playoff appearances. While the team has seen consistent success, stagnation has seemed to set in. The Jazz is always marked as a playoff team but never a genuine contender for the title. Perhaps as a new owner, Smith will be able to bring a different perspective and propel the Jazz to the next level. However, if nothing changes, the Jazz is in danger of being a second-round playoff team at best for the foreseeable future.

Smith must also guard the treasures bequeathed to him by Mrs. Miller. The Jazz has two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, and a budding superstar and fan-favorite Donovan “Spida” Mitchell. Should Smith wish to keep the Jazz competitive, he must take care of his stars. Smith must also work with his front office to ensure Donovan and Rudy’s supporting cast’s retention, notably Bogan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles.

It is not only great players Smith is inheriting but also the talented and widely respected head coach Quinn Snyder, who recently signed a long-term deal. Snyder has been a pivotal part of the upward trajectory of the franchise in recent years. Smith and the Miller family also confirmed that Jazz president Dennis Lindsey and general manager Justin Zanik will remain in their roles.

With the closing of three decades of Miller ownership, Ryan Smith has big shoes to fill. With one of the most loyal fanbases in the NBA, a potential superstar in Mitchell and lofty aspirations, there is a lot of work to complete in Utah. However, as a young owner with new money, Smith is uniquely poised to become the Mark Cuban of Utah and take his new franchise to heights not seen for over 20 years.


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