Saturday, February 21, 2009

Everything rises and falls on leadership

An article in the Salt Lake paper from May 2007 about Jazz owner Larry Miller, who passed away earlier this week, illustrates the importance of strong team ownership.

The author asks, "How, over more than two decades, have the Jazz produced a consistent winner, albeit one that lacks a championship banner?"

Welcome to the Utah Jazz Construction Co. Bring your hard hat and tool belt. Check your ego at the job site. Do your job whether you're the general contractor or the guy mixing the mud. Punch the clock and collect your pay. And don't quit until the work is done. That's the Jazz way.

The answer, according to Thurl Bailey, who played for Utah for 10 seasons, lies in the people within the team.

"It has to start with where you want your organization to go, how you want to build your organization and what kind of people you want to build it with. We bring our lunch pail. We bring our hard hat and we go to work. Nothing special."

Ultimately, Mr. Miller, who's owned the team since 1986, was the person responsible for the Jazz organization's remarkable culture.

It comes down to leadership, says Pat Williams, a genuinely good man who, among other things, played in the Phillies' farm system and has served as SVP for the Orlando Magic for more than 20 years.

"At the end of the day, everything rises and falls on leadership. It always has and always will. Since arriving in Salt Lake, I give the Jazz an A in the leadership department. Give Larry Miller credit. He hires good people and appears to let them do their jobs."

DEN assistant GM David Fredman, who spent nearly three decades with the Jazz, describes Mr. Miller's management style:

"Larry Miller hasn't panicked. In other words, he's stuck with people and let the basketball people make the decisions. He was passionate from the start, but he hasn't let his emotions take over to the point where basketball decisions are made by nonbasketball people. He's let coach (Jerry) Sloan coach. He's let [GM] Kevin O'Connor do his job.... I think Larry's confidence in his people and his loyalty to his people has ended up paying dividends to him."

Says Jazz center Jarron Collins, now in his eighth season with the team:

"[Mr. Miller's] hands on, he demands the best effort every night you step on the court. He ran the team in a way that fans could truly appreciate, and that defines who he is."