Karl Malone

Karl Malone

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.

29 Responses to “Karl Malone”

  1. Brandon Hanson says:

    Excellent. Good to get some big picture perspective on this.

  2. William Reeder says:

    To paraphrase, if you can’t say something nice…shut up. Possibly unfortunately Karl’s story is more Plausible than yours. Deal with it.

  3. Dan Gilbert says:

    GREAT LETTER GREG!!

    BUT IT NEEDS MORE CAPS!!!!!

  4. Kid says:

    You are such a douche.

    A silver-spooned, forked-tongued, junk dealer that shows no loyalty to one, arguably, the ten best players in NBA history and the best player in franchise history. A guy that literally put the Jazz on the map in Utah, and made the franchise viable going forward.

    If not for Malone, the Jazz might have moved many years ago. With you, the team may not be in Utah much longer

    Seriously, what have you done for the Utah franchise? Not a damned thing, other than back-stab, obfuscate and whine about payroll.

    You’re the typical example of neotany — an under-developed man-child, that has so little taste or is so cheap he has a SuperCuts hairline — that has accomplished nothing on his own, and is literally only known or in any position of power because of Daddy.

    It’s an embarrassment for you to attack Malone. Just as it is an embarrassment to consider how little you’ve had to work for what you have compared to that same Man.

    And the best part? Your lack of tact, taste and loyalty shows through as a microcosm, likely pointing to how little loyalty you showed Sloan.

    If you can’t show Malone respect, and are such a petty man that you think bringing up lunch dates is supposed to absolve you, then why would anyone believe that you’d treat Sloan any better?

    But hey, I’m sure some schlub at gas station gave you thumbs up while buying a donut. I have a digit I’d like to share with you. Guess which one?

    You’re the perfect FaceBook/TWitter-Gen owner: a self-obsessed twit that knows nothing about basketball, logic or manners, and only owns the team or garners any attention through nepotism.

    You’re a joke.

  5. Quinn says:

    Well said, this community loves both families. Karl’s Hall of fame acceptance speech was genuine and I love the part where he spoke about Larry. I hope the fence can be mended, I’d love to see Karl at games. Thanks for all you do Greg.

  6. Mike says:

    Greg,
    I have been a Jazz fan for years and have admired your family for giving back to the community. As a owner of a company myself, it is hard to balance the many demands from everyone. I personally think you have done a wonderfully job and hope that you will continue your journey in life with the same attitude and perseverance that you have showed thus far. As the saying goes, it is lonely at the top. Yes it is, but at the same time we have a duty at the top to do what we can to reach out to those below and bring them up. Keep chugging Greg.
    Your friend
    Mike

  7. Brian says:

    Greg-
    You don’t have to explain Karl’s flakiness off the court to anyone. Thanks for your family’s wonderful commitment to Utah.

  8. Dave says:

    Greg-

    You start your rant with the notion that you like to keep things behind closed doors. You then go on to publish childish, playground style, stories in an attempt to tear down Malone’s reliability and credibility. Your PR department isn’t being truthful with you. This post is a personal nightmare for them. I can only assume they will not tell you because this post shows that you let your temper get the best of you and they may fear for their jobs. This kind of “half-cocked” rant makes you look childish as the CEO of a business. Malone has nothing to lose by this. People know he is quirky, temperamental, and has an large size ego.

    The public knows and accepts that a lot of athletes aren’t the smartest business men. They accept it. In fact, they pay the gate fees every time. Malone is no exception. He, along with Stockton, built the very Utah Jazz brand you are claiming to protect. Yes, he does deserve leeway and every piece of accommodation you can provide.

    This post does nothing to protect the reputation of your business. However, it does quite the opposite. I am curious to know if this piece of childish literature also decreases your business by half today. If it does, maybe you should have taken the advice you gave Karl a couple years ago.

    I am, and plan to be, a lifelong loyal Jazz fan. This loyalty was forged by watching Malone represent the organization for 18 solid years. I sincerely hope this reputation is not destroyed by you and your insistence on showing you are a “big boy” in the world of entertainment.

    Sincerely,

    David Dorris

  9. Kathy says:

    Thank you Greg for standing up to Karl!! He has always had the attitude that he was better than everyone else while always playing the ‘aw shucks, I’m from a small town in Louisiana’ card. I am sure your family’s backs hurt from bending over to make him happy. He always has a comment but never a solution to any of the problems he likes to get in the middle of…like the Jerry Sloan saga. Good job on standing up to him about this latest rant…who really cares that he had to pay a scalper? In a small way, he added to the local economy.

  10. Craig Johnson says:

    You did not take the high road and most of your article/blog was unecessary. We all know Karl and most of time he speaks from the heart and not the head. He said many thing but the facts are Deron caused many problems was never the real player like Stockton. He was not for the team or community as that was shown we he returned to town.

    Jerry Sloan derserved better, no he earned better.

    But you should have taken the high road like you Dad, Larry was a class guy you so far have not learned very well from your Dad.

    I have been a season ticket holder since the Stars and always admired the Jazz organization. Please stick to the high road all the stuff about high maintance was unnessary. Look in the mirror.

    Thanks Craig

  11. Cindy grange says:

    Greg,
    You sound so petty. How sad that you chose to air your dirty laundry like this.

  12. Tom says:

    Right on Greg. Karl Malone was supposed to be the commencement speaker at my graduation from SLCC in 2001 but couldn’t make it so your Dad stepped in. He made every excuse to make Karl look good for not being there and showed incredible loyalty to Karl by covering for him. Larry did a fantastic job, but it was sad that he had to make excuses for what I still think to this day was a Karl Malone that didn’t want to fulfill his commitment and just wanted to get out of it anyway possible. (This was a May graduation so he was definately around).

  13. Pat Lambert says:

    The High Road no longer?

    I’m sure there is a reason you’ve chosen to try and take the high road in your life when traveling through the rough terrains of relationships with others. Probably because you understand that its almost always the best decision path – leaving you with clear vision of options, flexibility in which paths to choose down the line. But with these blog comments and the same that our found in the Trib today, I think the Toyota slick rock machine at the top your blog has, by your choice, slipped down off the high trail into the thistle. And all because Karl said he couldn’t get a ticket to the game?

    You have given Malone his props early in the discussion, but the effort seems obligatory, introduced by “it has been said” instead of treating his work ethic and effort as your opinion or as fact. You give several examples of Malone’s bad behavior that are suppose to help defend the Utah Jazz – Malone was late for an autograph signing appointment, canceled and rescheduled meetings that he had requested set up, his impetuous nature led him to say things to the public without thinking out the ramifications. Having spent many years in a position of working with many strata of high-level officials, colleagues, and large groups of employees (although certainly not at the fiscal scale that you must), I must say that these complaints come off as relatively small. Certainly so when compared to the attributes you assign to Malone including – “he’s done more for the less fortunate than most of us will ever know – he’d give you the shirt off his back. Juxtaposed, the good seems to far outweigh the annoying.

    But his foibles offend us – maybe offended you personally. There is one thing I have learned and, although I have found it difficult to follow sometimes, found to be sound advice – don’t get offended. Other’s actions which do no live up to our expectations are usually, come from problems that they have that we can’t easily change. I think we should think about those statues outside your building. They are of Stockton and Malone. They are not of you, or Jerry, of anybody else. Without Malone and his superior talent and equal effort, the Jazz would not have that iconic national symbol, Stockton would not be Stockton, and maybe the Jazz would not have developed the faithful fan base that now puts up with sometimes less effort than our ticket price warrants. There may have been contracts ripped up and re-signed, but looking at the numbers I don’t think Malone was overpaid (when compared to the market at the time) for the results he brought. Sure his career is 25 and 10, but his prime produced numbers much larger than that – and he was a sheer joy to watch play.

    But now we have a spitting match and a he said he said situation. Whether the Jazz organization likes the grade Malone gave to the Jazz on handling the Sloan situation or not – what he is saying is what most Jazz followers believe. Kevin O’Conner chose his words very carefully in responding on the local shows to Malone’s opinions, informing on how hard they tried to convince Jerry to stay. But really said very little about the reasons why Sloan walked away that night – other than to say “go ask Jerry”. Other sources have repeated, in recent Trib articles, what Malone has conjectured.

    In the end and in the big picture of local sports, it really does not matter about the ticket, or even Jerry’s retirement. There is basketball to be played and fans to be entertained. But I am sure it matters, on a personal level, how moving forward is accomplished. I have been a Utah basketball fan since way before your family purchased the Jazz. I cheered the Utah Stars on as they claimed the ABA Championship, and sat, as a boy, with my father in the Salt Palace and watched the first games of a young center named Moses Malone. I have followed the Jazz since the beginning and truly enjoy the game. I greatly appreciate the loyalty that the Miller family has shown in trying to maintain the Jazz and put out a competitive product and one worthy or its fan’s following. I’d hate to listen to another competition of words between its owners and its most fabled star. Some times its hard to get back on that high road, once the lower, more rocky place is chosen – even for a nice rig like yours. Most of the time its best to stay on the skyline even though others temp us from below. – Pat L.

  14. Josh says:

    Should have just let it slide Greg. This just looks and feels bad. Who cares what Karl Malone says?

  15. Cory says:

    Greg –

    Just my opinion.. But sometimes these things are best left unsaid in a public forum. The majority of Jazz fans are intelligent enough to ‘understand’ Karl – do we really need this type of drama?

    I’d like to see Thurl Bailey engaged more in helping the bigs, even if it’s unofficially – he’s stable, and richly intelligent – plus he earns the respect of the fans during EVERY game.

    Lets get Favors some bulk – if he had Malone’s strength, we’d have our 25 and 10 guy.

  16. Mike M. says:

    This has been a difficult time for Jazz fans, with Jerry leaving and our all-star point guard being shipped out of town. We aren’t used to the losing or the instability, having been a model for consistency and stability for about 30 years. Now one of our most beloved former players is having a very public dispute with team management, and it is a player who has the reputation of being brutally honest, even when that honesty has been inconvenient and unwanted. However, there is a great deal of optimism and hope amongst the fanbase for where this team is headed in the next few years. There is an undeniable belief that the young core of this team can bring us to heights never previously experienced, permitted they grow to reach their full potential and a few more holes in the roster are filled. This blog of yours is very well reasoned and fair, and Jazz Nation thanks you for your openness and sincerity. Please keep doing what you feel is best for the organization and its fanbase. I hope this rift can be quickly and adequately amended, and the focus can return to a building franchise that is attempting to return to the stature we all know that we belong. Take care

  17. Goon Diapers says:

    Wow—you sure know how to take the high road. I don’t think you are helping your case much by making this feud even more public. Looks like Sloan wins again by showing how classy it is to just say, “No comment.”

  18. Bret Dayley says:

    I wish you’d keep all this between you and Karl. You said “He (Karl) crossed a line.” But now, Greg, you crossed the same line. You CAN afford to let Karl say whatever he wants … because the public knows Karl better than you think.

    What Karl says about the Jazz and the Miller family would NEVER effect my decision to be a customer of a Miller family company. You’ve put way, way to much weight on Karl’s words.

    Telling us how many appointments Karl misses and that he is unreliable and unstable and tweeting that he’s lying brings you down, it does not elevate you. It hurts your businesses, it does not help them. You don’t need to bite your tongue — you need to talk to Karl, not to the public. That is a no winner for you. Whoever you rely on for PR did you a disservice by not saying what I’m saying to you. I hope you ran your thoughts by your advisers … and if you did, you need new ones because they should have talked you out of responding publicly.

    The only winner for you would have been to had Karl say “Greg called me and told me I’d never be without a ticket when I wanted one — I apologize the the Jazz organization and to the Miller family for not realizing how much the still care for and appreciate me.”

    I don’t appreciate you going public with all of this … that is the only thing that will keep me from being your customer. I hope you can repair that.

    Go Jazz!

  19. Jay says:

    Thanks for sharing your side. What I have noticed is that “diva’s” always like to stay in the spotlight and although no one will question his work ethic no one will also say he didn’t have some diva in him. My first thought after Jerry retired and then Karl was spouting off was “how the heck does he know all this stuff when he is so far removed from the situation” — anyway the fact remains that even Karl shouldn’t mess with the bull — he may end up getting the horn some day. He should just let the situation alone and enjoy retirement but diva’s can’t stay out of the limelight they have to keep showing up to ‘the party’ even when not wanted. We wish you and your organization family nothing but the best in all of this and appreciate your openess.

  20. Bryan Carter says:

    Thank you Greg for the insight into this. Karl was a great benefit to the Jazz for many years, but time moves on. Ask an elementary school child and there is a good chance they will say Karl who? Karl had his time in the spotlight, but now it is time for the next generation.

  21. Jake says:

    Good insight

  22. Diane Dalton says:

    Greg,
    I agree with you 100%. He is what I call a “pot stirrer” in order to put focus on himself. I like his playing but his selfishness and desire to make everything about “HIM” drives me crazy. He always wants to mouth off! I am glad you wrote this and set the record strait and I am glad Jerry also made a comment. I understand why you would want to defend the jazz and your family. Please don’t ever hire him as a coach! I almost just start laughing when I see him on TV. You all are a wonderful organization and I am proud to be a fan!

  23. Tom says:

    I’m not a BB fan, but I am proud of Greg for taking this stand and telling it like it is.

    I observed an interesting event concerning Malone that was very reminiscent of some of the above.

    Karl had been signed by JB Hunt trucking to be their spokesman and the national commercial was filmed in SLC. A large crew was set up on location, the Ad agency people were all there, the producer and director were ready to roll, the honcho’s from JB Hunt were in from Arkansas, it was a big shoot with a lot of money rolling out the door every minute.

    Karl was a not show! No notice, not thank you man, no nothing. A few phone calls went out to his lawyer and an hour or so later Karl and his mouth piece finally showed up.

    The VP from JPHunt (a billion dollar company) was a short Italian looking fellow about 5′10″ tall and the same wide who didn’t have much to say. He looked like a guy that central casting would send over to read for a part in a gangster movie.

    Karl, his mouth piece and this honcho from JBH went into a private office at the trucking terminal where the shoot was taking place, just the three of them. Within minutes the walls started to rumble and shake and the distinctly east coast sounding voice of the obviously bad ass Italian kept getting louder and deeper and more ominous. Individual words were unintelligible but there was no doubting who was conducting the meeting. Then it all went quite and pretty soon they all came out. The Italian had a nonchalant look on his face but was twirling his ring.

    Karl and his mouth piece both looked a bit humble and hang dog, the later looked maybe a shade or two paler than when he walked in, they got in their limo and sped away.

    After the producer and Italian got together for a few minutes the producer told the crew that they could wrap for the day but return the same time tomorrow. He also informed them that they would be paid double for the day in addition to their regular pay for the next day. Three days pay for a one day of actual work! Pretty good deal for the crew as it turned out.

    The next day Karl, and the mouth piece, were both 15 minutes early for the shoot. The production company also got a check directly from Karl for the full amount of the previous day’s shoot.

    Other than day one, the shoot went great, Karl was spot on with his performance, he was cheerful and friendly to the crew and staff, He looked great on camera and JBHunt’s VP looked on from the side line with a very pleased look on his face. Karl and JBHunt went on to have a happy couple of years relationship and parted on good terms as far as I ever heard.

  24. Ryan says:

    Keep a chin up, Greg! I thought your comments were respectful and needed to defend this great organization. Karl is remembered as a “warrior,” but he should not bite the hand that fed him for so many years.

  25. Ansare Summers says:

    It’s sad when people you respect put you in the position of having to set the record straight.

    Well written, to say the least, and sad as hell.

    Thank you.

  26. Clarence says:

    Kudos to you sir. Sports owners get a very bad rap today, a lot of which has been earned. I have always thought the Jazz were and are a top – notch organization. You stood behind your coach when a lot of others felt the game had passed him by. Having said that, I have never been a Karl Malone fan, simply because of several of the things you mentioned. I’ll never forget when Magic Johnson attempted his comeback after being diagnosed with HIV, and Karl was one of the most vocal opponents to it because he didn’t want to get sick. If he took the time to ask a health care professional he would have discovered his reasoning was flawed, but he didn’t do that. It’s about time someone has decided to take these “men” to task for their irresponsible comments and actions. Again, kudos.

  27. Leo G says:

    I am not a Utah fan but based on your letter, you sound like the kind of owner everybody should be pleased to work for. You represent your family very well.
    Best of luck.!!!!!

  28. aaron says:

    Karl Malone gotta do what Karl Malone gotta do. Just kidding. Well said, Greg. I appreciate the leadership and direction you have given to the organization since your father’s passing, and then after Jerry’s retirement. Thanks to you and your mother and everyone else for putting your hearts, not just your money and resources, into a great organization! I appreciate it.

    Aaron

  29. Lain DaPipe says:

    Malone was great for sure. But he never brought the city a ring. This sort of stuff wouldn’t go on it Boston/New York and dare I say even LA. Well maybe LA but then again, the boys in LA have multiple rings. The Jazz need to cut ties with Karl for good. Build a championship team and Karl Malone will be just a foot note.