I have always believed in taking the high road and addressing my grievances in private. I have always remained silent relative to the media on those types of issues for that reason. However, when Karl Malone recently made comments about how he was treated by the Utah Jazz when he attended a Utah Jazz game last season, he crossed a line. He put me in a position where I have to defend the Utah Jazz and set the record straight. I can no longer afford to sit back and let Karl make comments that are factually inaccurate without defending the franchise and our family.
Karl Malone was a warrior. It has been said that nobody worked harder than he did when he was a member of the Utah Jazz. He was one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. His statistics speak for themselves: career averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, 14- time All-Star, two-time MVP, Hall-of-Famer, the achievements go on and on. He played for the Utah Jazz for 18 seasons. During that time he missed only ten games. Karl, along with John Stockton, led the Jazz to the NBA finals twice. His number hangs in the rafters of EnergySolutions Arena and his likeness stands tall in the plaza. Karl’s value as a player to the Utah Jazz is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.
Karl is an extremely generous person. I am personally aware of many charitable things he’s done over the years, and undoubtedly he’s done more for the less-fortunate than most of us will ever know. He’d give you the shirt off his back.
Karl has been honored and respected by the Utah Jazz franchise and the Miller family since he arrived here in 1985. My dad tore up a half dozen contracts during Karl’s career because Karl kept demanding more. Karl was high-maintenance- on a scale few people are ever exposed to- throughout his career. My dad accepted that because Karl gave everything he had as a player, and he brought 25 and 10 every night. The benefits were clearly there. I have tried to leave it at that and respect him for what he’s done for the Utah Jazz. I’ve bitten my tongue time and again when Karl has made derogatory comments. I’ve tried to keep in mind the words of one of my mentors close to the situation who said “Karl Malone is giant pain in the ass, but he’s our pain in the ass.”
The fact is Karl is still as high-maintenance as he ever was, but now he has nothing to offer to offset the grief and aggravation that comes with him. Some would argue that he could coach our big men. I would love to have Karl inspire them and teach him how to be warriors like he was. That can’t happen. Karl is too unreliable and too unstable. Let me explain.
When I was the general manager of the Honda dealership Karl and John Stockton co-owned in Sandy, Utah, I was responsible to coordinate the grand opening. John and Karl agreed to sign autographs for one hour beginning at 3:00 as part of the ceremony. People started lining up first thing in the morning and by 3:00 there were hundreds of people lined up throughout the dealership. John arrived three minutes early and had a seat at the autograph table. At 3:15 Karl still wasn’t there. Concerned about keeping John longer than agreed, I made the decision to have John start signing autographs. Karl showed up at 3:30. Some people stayed around and formed a second line to get Karl’s autograph, but most left disappointed and angry.
A couple of years later there was a lockout in the NBA. By then, the Honda dealership was established, employing about 85 people. Karl co-hosted a radio show at that time and made some comments on the air about wanting to play for a team “in a town where it rains” and when the lockout was over he’d “demand to be traded”. His comments were well documented. The next day car sales dropped by half. Karl continued to make similar comments on his show. After a few days I drove to the studio that broadcast his show and waited until his show was over to speak with him. I told him I respected his right to say whatever he wanted, but that his comments were keeping customers away. I suggested he consider the impact his comments were having on his partner(s) and on the 85 people whose livelihoods depended on customers coming to his dealership. I still remember the surprised look on his face when I pointed those things out to him. Thankfully, that was the end of his trade demands.
Some years later Karl scheduled and cancelled or blew off a number of lunch appointments with me. On three separate occasions Karl had one of his assistants schedule a lunch appointment with me. The first time Karl never showed up. When I called his assistant I was told that Karl had something come up and he wouldn’t be able to join me. We rescheduled. I got a call on the way to the second appointment a few weeks later to tell me Karl couldn’t make it. That happened again the third time a month or so later.
A couple of years ago Karl called me to see if our family would be willing to sell him the real estate under his Toyota dealership in Draper, Utah. I told him I’d be happy to discuss it with him. I drove to the dealership and we met in his conference room. Karl’s disposition was very cold at first, but as the conversation progressed, he gradually warmed up. We agreed in concept to the deal, and by the end of the meeting Karl said he thought we should spend more time together. I agreed and suggested we have lunch a couple days later, to which he agreed. Two days later, as I was about to leave for the lunch appointment, he had someone call to tell me he wouldn’t be able to make it.
A year ago, when Jerry retired, Karl rushed to Salt Lake City. He got in front of every camera he could find at the first game following Jerry’s departure. He positioned himself as an authority on Jerry’s departure by saying something like “the Jerry Sloan I know isn’t a quitter. He left because he didn’t feel wanted.” Karl wasn’t in the locker room during the conversations with me and Jerry. Had he been, he would have seen me (and my mom) do everything possible to convince Jerry to stay. By his own admission Karl hadn’t spoken to Jerry since Jerry left. Karl’s comments on the radio and on national television made an already stressful situation worse. Then in his next breath, on national television, Karl asked me to hire him as a coach.
These are just a few experiences I’ve had with Karl that clearly demonstrate that he can’t be counted on. I am not willing to invite the elements of unreliability and instability into the Jazz organization. It would obviously do more harm than good.
Earlier tonight I sent out the following tweet relative to Karl’s claim that he had to buy a ticket to that Jazz game from a scalper because he couldn’t get one from the Jazz: “Hey Karl- you’re lying. You have my number. Next time you need a seat to a Jazz game call me. You can have mine.” All three statements are true.
Karl has been welcome at Jazz games since he retired- not just as a guest but as an insider, as alumni. Jazz staffers and management have gone above and beyond to show him respect and take care of him and his family.
Karl, I’m not sure where or how our relationship became so sour. I wish it was otherwise. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you in any way. I’d love to do whatever I can to mend the fence and make you feel welcome at Jazz games. I would love to have you as an ambassador for the Utah Jazz. You have a standing invitation to do both.