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News » Miller tribute leaves fans jazzed


Miller tribute leaves fans jazzed


Miller tribute leaves fans jazzed No, Greg Miller is not ready for his press interview. The Utah Jazz's chief executive officer is busy shooting the breeze with a season ticket-holder, mussing the hair of a little boy in a Utah Jazz jersey and passing out fan hats to teenagers with blue hair and painted faces. "I'm having so much fun," he said, shaking one, two, three more hands before regretfully setting down his stack of hats and preparing to chat with the Deseret News. "I love these people."

Miller and his mother, Gail, who owns the Utah Jazz , personally welcomed fans to EnergySolutions Arena Friday, to kick off the first home game of the season. It's what, Greg Miller said, his father would have wanted. Before Larry H. Miller died on Feb. 20 from complications of diabetes, he was known for getting "right there in the middle of everyone, shaking hands and smiling," Greg Miller said. "He was big on humility," he said. "He always used to tell us, 'I don't mind getting big, but I don't want to act big.'?" Greg Miller got a little red-eyed Friday, as he talked about kicking off the season without his father. "I love coming here," he said. "I love the electric feeling, the drama, the game. But it's hard. It still doesn't feel right to walk into this building, like I've been doing for the past 18 years, and not have him here." Larry H. Miller was on more minds than one Friday. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which opened the game with a goose-bump-inducing version of the national anthem, sang to memorialize the Jazz's former owner, said choir president Mac Christensen. Friday was only the second time Christensen has led his 360 singers onto a Basketball court. The first time was also at a Jazz game. "The Miller family has been so fantastic to this community," Christensen said. "We're really doing this to honor Miller." Greg Miller, though, would prefer not to focus on his family. He'd like to put the spotlight on the arena full of fans. Friday's meet-and-greet session was a gesture of appreciation from the franchise to the fans, he said. "These fans are the engine of the Utah Jazz ," Greg Miller said. "We just want to thank them." In a quiet voice, taking each person who stepped through the door firmly by the hand, Gail Miller delivered the message first hand. "Thank you," she said. "We appreciate you being here." Season ticket-holder Nancy Knight, 70, was wide-eyed when Greg Miller offered her his hand. "I can't believe he's down here," she said, fingering her brand new, navy-blue hat. David Arnold, 52, wasn't so surprised. "This whole organization has been fan-based," he said. "I love the Millers. They're really friendly, community-oriented people." Greg Miller was taken aback when he met Arnold's son, Jake, 18, who was wearing a Chicago Bull's hat. "What is that?" he said, throwing his hands out. Jake Arnold was abashed. "I don't have a Jazz hat?" he offered, tentatively. The CEO promptly fixed that, yanking a blue hat down over the young man's ears. "Now you do," he said. The meet-and-greet wasn't, the Jazz claimed, an attempt to drum up ticket sales. The team doesn't release season-ticket information, but Jazz senior vice president of sales and marketing Jim Olson admitted sales have slumped compared to last year. In 2008-09, Utah reached its self-imposed season-ticket cap of 14,900 and retained a staggering 90 percent of the previous year's season ticket-holders ? and that happened before the regular season even tipped off. Their playoff run fell short ? a first-round loss to the Los Angeles Lakers got Utah's summer vacation off to an early start ? but the Jazz won the NBA championship for season ticket sales. While that achievement doesn't come with a trophy or a parade, topping the 30-team league in that category was a source of pride. Besides a financial boost, it was also a record for the franchise that began in 1974 in New Orleans. It's also a mark the team isn't counting on matching for the just-started 2009-10 season. "That was the strongest year we ever had," Olson said. "We knew with the economy that it would soften just a little bit, which it has, but it's just been still minor." Added Olson: "We will be down just a little bit from last year, and that's about what we expected." The vice president said the economy is mostly to blame for the downturn in sales. The recession hadn't quite kicked in last spring and summer when fans gobbled up the season tickets at a record pace. "I'm just grateful for the sacrifice so many people have made to be here," Greg Miller said. "It would have been so easy for them to keep their money and stay at home and watch the games on TV." e-mail: estuart@desnews.com, jody@desnews.com


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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 1, 2009

 

 
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