Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — NBA commissioner David Stern had plenty of nice things to say about the Utah Jazz prior to Monday's game at EnergySolutions Arena.
The league's chief executive opened his press conference by noting it was the only building in the NBA with his signature on the last beam placed in the structure. Stern accepted an invitation from then-owner Larry H. Miller and was on hand for the construction crew's topping ceremony in 1991.
"It's a nostalgic place to be," he said.
Stern took time to reflect on a variety of Jazz-related topics. He even met with Miller's widow, Gail, before the game.
"Larry was a great leader and a great teacher, and I think that the team is in great shape with the Miller family and under the leadership of Greg," Stern said. "It's been a seamless, to say the least, transition."
Losing an owner like Miller, though, hasn't been easy for the commissioner. During his lengthy career with the NBA, which dates back to 1966 as outside counsel, Stern has welcomed all but one owner (Washington's late Abe Pollin) into the league.
"We are very much a family, and it's sad when you lose family members," Stern said while acknowledging that ownership cycles occur with the natural course of things.
Miller's approach, though, was somewhat unique. Case in point, Jerry Sloan's lengthy tenure as head coach — the longest in all of major professional sports, dating back to 1988.
"Flavors come and go," Stern said while explaining that many good coaches go through a cycle where ownership feels the need to make a change.
"Larry was able to resist that sort of overall pressure and say he's a great coach," continued Stern, who called it a tribute to both Miller and Sloan that the handshake that bound them has remained intact.
Stern said it's very unlikely that another NBA team will keep a coach tenured for so long. The 67-year-old then compared himself to the 68-year-old Sloan.
"We're a dying breed," said Stern, who has received paychecks from just two places in his career — a law firm and the NBA. "It's not happening any more. But it sure is reassuring to look there and expect to see him, and darn, he's there. It's kind of neat."
Seeing Sloan as a fixture in Utah, he added, is terrific.
Stern also had nice things to say about former Jazzman Karl Malone.
"We just loved him," he said. "I think it's great that he's going into the Hall of Fame."
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