The NBA lost a great man and a one-of-a-kind owner Friday when Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller died. He was 64.
Miller had been suffering from the ravages of Type II diabetes. The last time I saw him, Miller was confined to a wheelchair on the court during a halftime celebration honoring Jazz announcer "Hot" Rod Hundley, who was calling his 3,000th game when the Jazz played the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 7. Two weeks later, Miller had both legs amputated six inches below the knees -- a telltale sign that the diabetes was taking over.
Miller left his mark in ways that a basketball blog would trivialize if I tried to give him a proper sendoff. The news release sent out by the Jazz mentions his entrepreneurial spirit, the college scholarships he and his wife, Gail, gave away, the charitable foundation that gave back millions to all the communities in which he did business. He lived to see 21 grandchildren born. What could be a better mark of a man?
Since this is a basketball blog, we have to talk about his basketball accomplishments, which are dwarfed by an otherwise extraordinary life. To me, Miller's mark on the game -- sadly -- already has been erased. He has employed one coach, Jerry Sloan, for 20 years. The Phoenix Suns just fired a coach, Terry Porter, after 51 games. Porter was the eighth NBA coach fired this season alone. I could look up how many head coaches have been fired since Sloan was hired, but it would make me sick.
Larry Miller understood loyalty. He understood winning. He understood people. He will be missed.
My father had Type II diabetes. Mercifully, he didn't have to experience all that the disease has to offer. We lost him three years ago to a massive heart attack, on Thanksgiving Day. There are marches and runs and telethons for every disease known to man. Diabetes is as bad as it gets, and those who are stricken with it suffer in anonymity -- and worse, with scorn and humorless jokes.
Whatever you do before you put your head on the pillow, do that for Larry Miller.