Utah Jazz star Karl Malone and team owner Larry H. Miller have had a unique relationship over the years. It's been more father-son than player-owner.

But Malone, during the preseason and again in more recent interviews, has said the relationship has been strained during the past year.The Mailman didn't appreciate Miller talking about the future in the post Malone-John Stockton era last summer, feeling as if the Jazz were almost pushing their hall of famers out the door. Malone was also critical of Jazz management for signing Greg Ostertag to a six-year, $39 million contract extension and for not yet extending Jerry Sloan's coaching contract.

Miller called Malone on Tuesday morning to arrange a meeting. It was the first time they had spoken to each other since Malone's most recent interviews critical of the team owner were aired by NBC and ESPN on March 15.

The two men met for 1 1/2 hours in Malone's home - located in the same Salt Lake neighborhood as Miller's - in an attempt to mend some fences.

"We had a good talk," said Miller. "We covered a lot of issues. He kind of rambled and I kind of rambled, but in the end I would characterize it as productive. Neither of us got ticked off at each other. He got some things off his chest and I got some things off mine."

Sloan, like Malone and Stockton, is under contract through the 1998-99 season. The long-time coach has routinely been given a one-season contract extension each year. But that has yet to happen this season. Miller insists, however, that nothing should be read into that.

"I've told Jerry that he'll be the coach of the Jazz as long as he wants to be," said Miller. "We'll take care of that. Jerry will be fine."

GAG ME: Miller couldn't speak on the record about the owners' 27-2 vote on Monday to reopen collective bargaining talks. The league has instituted a gag order on the owners.