By now you’ve certainly seen the heavyweight, circus-ring bout between brass-balled legend Karl Malone and emerging owner Greg Miller, who is only now finding his voice and place in the public eye as the front man for the Utah Jazz. Anyone who’s followed Karl knows he has an unbridled passion for speaking his mind, and now finds himself in the unfamiliar position of not having a platform for lending his mind to a given matter nearly as often as he’d become accustomed to.
As for Greg Miller, the pendulum has swung a wide swath among Jazz fans, going from “he doesn’t care about the Jazz like his dad did” — a sentiment I challenged here at HP a few weeks ago, and had confirmed straight from the horse’s mouth a short time later — to now he cares too much and should keep his mouth shut. But that’s not the Miller way. Malone has always forced his hand with the Jazz brass, and this is a throwback to what was commonplace for nearly two decades in Salt Lake Valley. The difference now is, the media world is more far-reaching thanks to formats like Twitter and personal blogs allowing for more immediate and nuclear action and reaction to take place.
In case you missed any of the action, a more comprehensive play-by-play of the drama isn’t to be found anywhere than this one, if you’d like to take a moment to catch up.
No one wants to think ill of their heroes and legends, and they’re held to a higher standard by the public at large, scrutinized and sliced to be put under glass for the microscope to dissect, right down to the last letter. But when all the chips are down, they’re still very much like us — human.
They have feelings, favorites, and extended family, so when shots are fired the need to throw up a shield and and fire back is human nature. Of course, this is typically the domain of the fan, so it’s a bit unnerving to see it in an arena as vast as this, even if it is fascinating to watch unfold. Rarely do we get to see inside the minds of giants-among-men such as these, or have an opportunity to glean insight into how they tick, how decisions that affect so many are made.
It’s unfortunate that the Band-Aid was ripped viciously off of festering wounds leaving them torn asunder all over again, unnecessarily in my opinion, in the name of page views and listeners, in the midst of a surprise season from a Jazz team that is in the now, trying to make headway with the tsunami of last season finally behind them. Sometimes the media gets caught up in a scoop, forgetting just how enormous it’s reach and influence can be, creating a snowball that effectively avalanches down a slippery slope unchecked until it swallows up everyone and everything in it’s path, including the combatants who never saw it coming for slinging ice-balls at each other.
Those in pursuit of “the TRUTH” may never be satisfied no matter how much more information from the Jazz Cave on the fateful night Jerry Sloan retired is divulged — truth tends to be in the mind’s eye, a personal matter of preference based on the amount of information one’s consciousness is able to take in and withstand. We all have a different threshold and tolerance for what we wish to believe, and tend to read into or take away from any juicy nugget what falls in line with our preconceived notions. We don’t like our comfort challenged nor our statues tarnished. They are, after all, legendary for a reason.
We should remember that there were a finite number of entities with first-hand knowledge of what really went down when the stalwart walls came crashing down to set in motion a franchise-changing series of events, and to what end would lying about how it went down would serve. This isn’t the first time this season someone “close to the organization” has played devil’s advocate, stirring the pot, forcing Greg Miller to do the distasteful part of his job (if you clicked the links you know I’m referring to the assertion that the Jazz were for sale). “A confidant of someone in the room” could be virtually any of a few dozen people, not the usual channel for a source at the least, and makes for third-hand knowledge corroborated by someone who was living a life post-NBA, seemingly struggling to remain relevant as a strong voice.
Malone put the Millers on the spot by asking for a job on national television, and was backed by countless fans who fondly recall the way Karl left every ounce of his being on the floor every single night, a trait he took with him to the Los Angeles Lakers as he pursued that elusive ring his final season. It can be argued that Malone and Gary Payton were the only ones who came to play the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals, Malone doing so on one leg, as another three-ring circus burst into flames ending an era for the Lakers franchise.
But it doesn’t mean he’d make a good coach at this particular time for the Jazz. In fact, Malone’s personality and penchant for making headlines would surely overshadow the new-era Jazz as they forge ahead trying to make their own legacies and way into the annals of history for this storied and steady franchise. Ty Corbin surely had the free agency to choose Karl if he liked, but instead brought in Mike Sanders, who’s done an admirable job bringing along the two young guns in step with the two big guns in the front court.
The only voice we haven’t definitively heard from yet in this fresh round of fire is the one at the center of it all, Jerry Sloan. And we may or may not. But to call any of the current combatants liars is to also call Sloan one, as he already stated the matter for the record once.
And I get the distinct impression Jerry got tired of repeating himself once already. He’s surely shaking his head at this nonsense, preferring to focus on what really matters: The game on the court, not the one off of it.
[Author update: Jerry Sloan releases statement concerning the feud]