There were smiles, jokes and sunny references to the Jazz's future at Deron Williams' press conference this week.
The only thing missing was the tears.
As these things normally go, Jazz owner Larry H. Miller would make a few remarks or a lot and invariably get choked up.
The man never could take the emotion out of the equation.
Which I found myself missing on Friday.
An absent Larry means no great quotes and anecdotes, which means I have to write my own column, rather than having him do it for me.
A new era in Jazz leadership is under way. As Miller remains hospitalized for symptoms related to diabetes, his son Greg has become the CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. From car dealerships to restaurants to finance companies to movie theaters to sports entities, the face of LHM is now GM, and we're not talking about General Motors. We're talking about Greg Miller, a reserved, serious young man who isn't about to try duplicating his father's flamboyance.
In auto terms, he is an understated Lexus sedan, while his father is a souped-up '64 Mustang convertible.
That doesn't mean Greg Miller shouldn't be good at his job. The man's been working in the Miller empire since he was sweeping floors at age 12. But it does mean things won't be as colorful.
You can forget about Greg strangling obnoxious Denver fans who are heckling him during the playoffs. Don't expect him to sit courtside and bicker with opposing players, either.
Greg Miller probably won't have his own locker room cubicle, and he won't warm up with the team, the way his father did years ago.
Just wondering: What does Greg Miller think about "Brokeback Mountain"?
I talked briefly with the latest Miller CEO this week and found him polite and pleasant, if a bit guarded. He seemed to weigh every question before answering, while his father sometimes answered questions before they were asked.
Larry spoke from the heart, while Greg appears to speak from the head. I told Greg he reminded me more of his mother, Gail, who has quietly and gracefully avoided media coverage, deferring to her extroverted husband ...
"I don't know that I would characterize myself as being more like my mom, but I am one who is perfectly content being in the shadows," said the younger Miller. "I'm not a limelight person. I think the most important thing for me is to assume whatever role is necessary for the well-being for the franchise. If that means being more visible, then I'm prepared to do that."
To date, there has been no clear explanation as to how involved Larry Miller will be when he returns, though the family says he continues to make a steady recovery.
Greg Miller seems a nice, competent guy, but in some ways he's Larry in grayscale. He has been appearing recently on the dais at Jazz-related events, making a few perfunctory remarks but letting others do most of the talking.
His is a measured, modest approach.
What you won't see is his opinions about contract disputes. He won't be feuding with Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts. And it's doubtful he'll storm into the locker room at halftime to rail at his team. (In the 1990s, Larry earned the nickname "The White Rhino" by the players, thanks to his epic locker room rants.)
Don't look for Greg to come out wearing short-shorts on Jazz Retro Night, either.
As for the flow of information, that probably won't be the same, either. When I was the Jazz beat writer in the early 1990s, the team would announce a contract extension, but insist terms would be kept private ...
That is until someone got to Larry.
I once said to him, "I know you're not releasing the terms of the player contract, but would I be off base if I said he'll be averaging about $800,000?"
"If you said he'll be making $830,000, $875,000 and $910,000 for the three years, you wouldn't be far off," said Miller.
I related that story to Greg Miller on Friday and said, "I'm guessing you probably wouldn't be that upfront, would you?"
"You're probably right," he chuckled softly.
So get well soon, Larry.I need the material.
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