To hear it from Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, he plans to take a reduced role in his business empire. A little less front-and-center, a little more behind-the-scenes.

Still, it would be hard to prove that by the way things went during his one hour and 40 minute press conference Friday. No fewer than eight TV cameras and a couple of dozen reporters were on hand, as well as numerous employees from his business enterprises.

The proceedings were aired live on TV and radio.

Larry behind the scenes?

Not likely. He's as incognito as a marching band.

So Miller is back, still the best quote in the market. He covered, among other things, his brushes with death ("I almost died at least four times"), the failures of Congress, the economy, the fuel crisis, parenting, nutrition, work ethics, venture capitalism and, of course, the Jazz.

Whatever has occurred since a heart attack triggered alarms in his overtaxed body two months ago, it was clear the man can still hold an audience. At length.

"We talked about what and how we should handle this, whether to fade back into the scenery or do what we were doing before and try to deal face-up with what's happened to me," he said.

Let's be honest: background scenery isn't Miller's style anyway.

"A few times I thought I was going crazy — stir crazy," he said.

Fifty-nine days in a hospital can do that to a person. Especially after spending a few decades working 70-90 hours a week.

Miller addressed the media on the top floor of EnergySolutions Arena to finally answer the question that has lingered since mid-June: Exactly how sick was he?

Rumors persisted he was on his deathbed, and if you ask him, he was.

It started with a heart attack on June 10, after which doctors tried to insert a pacemaker, which didn't take. That was followed by the insertion of two stents. He also suffered kidney failure, but after several weeks on dialysis, they suddenly fired back up.

Just like the post-Stockton/Malone Jazz, he wasn't finished yet.

Still, toss in diabetes, gastrointestinal bleeding, gout and various other afflictions — including medical people "asking the same stupid questions, over and over" — and you pretty much had a body fit for the textbooks. Or at least the repair shop.

It was largely brought on by what he said was inattention to his health.

"More days than not, I ate one or two meals a day, the last 10 years," he said.

When he got to the hospital, doctors found he had nutrient deficiencies galore.

But Miller is nothing if not tenacious. He fought back. That's how he rose from parts salesman to business tycoon. Thus, when the camera lights went up Friday, he was back in his old form. He spent part of the session explaining the mortgage mess and blaming it on unethical business practices. He went on to say the economic downturn is tied to fuel prices, adding that ethanol is a ridiculous solution.

"That's not just a bad equation, it's a stupid equation," he said.

Hey, when you've stared down death, the Sierra Club isn't all that big a deal.

He took on Congress, too, saying, "We as citizens are being let down by our leadership."

Miller also discussed the Jazz, who have serious salary cap issues coming up next year. He admitted to being "very worried about that" and added that he doesn't plan on paying luxury taxes to keep the team intact.

Already you could hear sports agents rattling their sabers.

Clearly, Miller had picked up where he left off — telling it like it is.

Yet for the past two months, he said, he was mostly out of the loop.

"I don't want to be dramatic, but that's what it was about — about survival," he said.

Freed at last from the hospital, he claimed to have a second lease on life. He said his diet, his priorities, and in some ways his outlook, have changed.

The best news, though, was that Miller himself didn't seem to have changed at all.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com