Share this story...
Thurl Bailey - Marquette University
Latest News

Thurl Bailey Trusts Miller Family; Utah Jazz Will Remain In Salt Lake

Former Utah Jazz power forward Thurl Lee Bailey sings the national anthem prior to a game between the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Creighton Bluejays on February 18, 2020 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz fanbase got a huge piece of news with the announcement that the Miller family decided to sell a majority stake of the Utah Jazz to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith. The intention is to keep the team in Salt Lake City.

The news was big to everyone, including employees of the Jazz organization. For example former great Thurl Bailey who is part of the television broadcast for the team. Bailey joined KSL Unrivaled to give his initial thoughts on there being a new owner for the Jazz for the first since 1986 when Larry Miller became the majority owner of the team.

“For me … it wasn’t shocking. It was probably a bittersweet reaction. I probably had the initial reaction that most people would have had,” Bailey said. “Being where I’ve been the last few years and being close to Gail and her family and the timing of everything, on the business side, I think the timing may have been right.”

From what he knows about Ryan Smith, Bailey likes him and says he falls in line with how the Millers treat and interact with the Utah Jazz family.

Did The Passion Move On From Gail Miller?

Selling the Jazz had to be a difficult decision for the Miller family. It was just a few years ago that the team was put into a trust to ensure that the Jazz would not be leaving the state of Utah. She is 77 and perhaps she did not want to be as involved with the grind of owning an NBA team.

Bailey soundly believes that Gail is still very much in love with the Jazz and this move was a huge decision and not all about the financial aspect.

“I don’t think the passion is gone at all. We had a personal call with Gail today as an employee. The passion has always been there and I don’t think that will ever leave,” Bailey said. “I think part of it for her was, you know, it was a bittersweet part as well. But I think my non-surprise came in the fact that there’s a lot going on right now.

“There’s a lot going on around us. There’s a lot going on in Utah, whether it’s COVID-19 or in people’s jobs are at stake. The economy of what the Millers own and run, it’s different,” Bailey said. “It’s hurting in some aspects. I don’t really think this was all about money. I just think for Gail, it felt like to me that it was just a time to get to a new era, another level without totally being disconnected.”

The Miller family will always be cheering on the Jazz in hopes that they can bring this fanbase an NBA title.

Bailey Trusts Miller Family’s Decision

One big question that came up with the Jazz selling the team is keeping them in town and all signs point to the team staying. Smith’s business is in Utah, he is from the state and he graduated from BYU, so that should be a very soothing fact for Jazz fans.

Bailey strongly believes that the Miller family would not sell the team to an outsider or someone who would have the intention of moving the Jazz out of Salt Lake City.

“You’ve trusted the Millers all these years and they’ve been upfront and forthright. You’d have to believe that whoever was there talking to, whether it’s Ryan Smith or maybe some folks who they just canceled out because they knew that down the road, there may be some chance [that the team could move],” Bailey said.

“I mean, we don’t know all those things. As someone who’s lived here for 30 years that those conversations were, ‘This is Utah’s team, this is Salt Lake City, baby, and in order for this to happen, it’s got to stay here’. I think all of us know that business is business and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I do trust that Ryan will raise it as one of his own and trust him.”

Never say never but Bailey is correct that the Miller family would not just sell this team to whoever came in with the highest bid and cash in on owning an NBA team for nearly four decades. Everything Smith has said is that he intends to keep the Jazz in Salt Lake.

Fondest Memory Of Miller Family

Bailey has a unique history with the Utah Jazz as he came in during the mid-1980s and was part of the team that played some of its home games in Las Vegas. So, his perspective on the team and how it has evolved once Larry Miller became the majority owner of the team. His favorite memory and moment was when the Miller Family stepped up and bought the team to keep it in Salt Lake.

“The Millers stepped up and basically said, ‘we want to do whatever we can right now to keep this team here [in Salt Lake]’. Then the following year, they were outright owners, so that was a big moment for me as a young player,” Bailey said. “As a player, you look for stability and you look up to ownership for that. You know they are going to be there for you and have a place for you to land as a player and maybe call your home, which I did.”

Having the team remain in Salt Lake City and not move to Las Vegas or Minnesota in the 80s was huge for Bailey and the Jazz community over the next 30 years, and it changed the perception of Salt Lake City as it has become known as an NBA town with a solid history.

“So it was a big moment. It was a big moment for this community. A big moment for me as a player in a lot of the players who, you know, who are excited to play in Utah.”

The Miller family needs to be recognized and applauded for keeping the team in town and not letting it slip away, building a team that has been very competitive in nearly every year and trust that Gail Miller made the right move.


Tune into KSL Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

Top Stories