SALT LAKE CITY — When the Jazz waived Darrell Griffith, there were tears on Larry H. Miller's pillow. When Thurl Bailey was traded, it was a regular weep fest. And when Mark Eaton retired, it was a two-hankie press conference.
None of the above came close to the tears shed when Jeff Hornacek, Karl Malone or John Stockton retired.
But when the Jazz traded once-in-a-generation guard Deron Williams this week past, it was all business. Not quite business as usual — you don't trade a two-time All-Star every day — but clearly it was an unsentimental decision.
Six seasons of brilliant play, and D-Will didn't even get a box of apples as a parting gift.
The Jazz are in a different place than they were two years ago. If one thing was clear Wednesday, it was that CEO Greg Miller is not your father's (or his) team owner. With the new Jazz, there will be fewer personal relationships and less emotion to cloud the issues. And there certainly won't be any signing players to long-term contracts because of friendships.
In this era, it's all about the return.
While the late Larry H. Miller was emotional and sentimental, his son is stolid and businesslike. Even when Jerry Sloan resigned two weeks ago, it was the coach who did the choking up. Greg seemed moved, but not enough to wear dark glasses or get out a handkerchief.
It's a hard business world nowadays, and nobody knows better than Miller. He got handed the reins by his ailing father, just as the economy was heading south. So he set about maximizing the team's value. His management team traded Eric Maynor, Matt Harpring and Ronnie Brewer, worked the sign-and-trade on Carlos Boozer and declined to match Portland's offer for Wesley Matthews. Then came the granddaddy of all Jazz trades: Williams to New Jersey.
Most or all of those moves were based significantly on finances.
Cost notwithstanding, Larry usually went with his heart.
With Greg, you wonder if he has one.
Larry was fiery, gregarious and tender-hearted, Greg is distant and cool. Larry was a quote machine, Greg is careful and guarded. Larry was an auto parts guy in a golf shirt and sneakers. Greg is moussed hair and silk ties.
It's not as though Larry never fired anyone. He OK'd sending Adrian Dantley to Detroit after it became clear Dantley and Frank Layden didn't mix. He also approved dozens of other player moves. But overall, Larry Miller had close personal relationships with his players.
Those days are largely over. Greg doesn't have his own locker in the Jazz dressing room and you'll never see him shooting warm-ups with the players.
At the same time, he might actually be better equipped to deal with today's NBA than his father.
Larry could rant, but he was also a locker room buddy. Greg goes in, but not to swap stories or share pizza. So when he called Williams with the trade details last Wednesday, there was no teary farewell. Miller said the conversation lasted 30 seconds.
Over and out.
Larry used to talk about certain untouchable players. Greg says "anyone could be traded if we felt it would make the organization better" and he backed it up on Wednesday.
Larry was in it for business, but mostly for philanthropy. He was emotionally invested, which always made trades hard. Greg points out the Jazz are the fifth-smallest market with the sixth-highest payroll.
"I don't see any player as being sacred," he said.
Williams didn't show much emotion when he was traded, but then again, neither did Greg. There was no reminiscing over the good times, just talk just about moving forward. Is that wrong? Probably not. This is an era of player self-interest and super-team buildup.
A more distant approach could be just the management style the Jazz need.
ONLINE POLL QUESTIONS:
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