Changing Of The Guard: Transitions Of Power In Utah Sports

Jan 20, 2021, 12:53 PM | Updated: 12:54 pm
Gail Miller, Ryan Smith, and Ashley Smith of the Utah Jazz (Photo: Utah Jazz)...
Gail Miller, Ryan Smith, and Ashley Smith of the Utah Jazz (Photo: Utah Jazz)
(Photo: Utah Jazz)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In honor of the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, we decided to take a look at transitions of power that have taken place in Utah sports.

Some of those “changing of the guard” moments have occurred in positions of ownership, coaching, and starting lineups.

Here are some of the top transitions of power from teams in the state:

Utah Jazz

Gail Miller sells the franchise to Ryan Smith

In October 2020, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies announced a sale of majority control in the Utah Jazz to Qualtrics Co-Founder and CEO Ryan Smith. The move was a significant change for the franchise which had been owned by the Gail Miller and the Miller family since 1986.

“After much soul searching, lengthy discussions and extensive evaluations of our long-term goals, my family and I decided this was the right time to pass our responsibility and cherished stewardship of 35 years to Ryan and Ashley, who share our values and are committed to keeping the team in Utah,” Miller said. “We have every confidence they will continue the work we have undertaken and move the team to the next level. Our family remains invested in the success of the Utah Jazz and these businesses, and we will retain a minority interest.”

In December 2020, Smith officially took control of the Jazz after the sale was approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors. Smith purchased the majority share for a reported $1.6 billion. The sale includes the Jazz, Vivint Arena, the Jazz G League affiliate the Salt Lake City Stars, and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees.

“We’re extremely excited to continue this journey and build upon the legacy that’s here and that’s honestly what’s made this possible,” Smith said. “There’s not really another team or another opportunity that we would do this with.”

Jerry Sloan takes over as head coach following Frank Layden’s resignation

The storied former NBA player first coached in the league as an assistant for the Chicago Bulls. In 1979, the Bulls made Sloan their head coach.

After a few seasons at the helm of the Windy City franchise, Sloan was fired.

In 1985, he joined the Jazz organization under head coach Frank Layden. After Layden resigned in 1988, Sloan was named the 7th head coach in franchise history.

Over the next 20-plus seasons, Sloan led the Jazz to the postseason nearly every season. He coached Utah to its only NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998.

Sloan’s coaching career spanned from 1978-2011.

Utah Utes

Kyle Whittingham becomes Utes head coach after Urban Meyer takes Florida job

Urban Meyer served as Utah’s head coach from 2003-04 and led the Utes to a 22-2 record in two seasons. After his time in Salt Lake City, he was hired as Florida’s head coach. He went on to coach the Gators to a pair of national championships.

Following Meyer’s departure to the Sunshine State, the University of Utah promoted Whittingham from defensive coordinator to head coach.

Since then, Whittingham has coached the Utes to an overall record of 134-66, including 11-3 in bowl games.

During his tenure, Utah has won three Pac-12 South titles.

In 2019, Whittingham was honored as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year and Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year.

Tyler Huntley beats out Troy Williams as Utah’s starting quarterback

Before Tyler Huntley’s sophomore season in 2017, the young quarterback won Utah’s starting quarterback job over senior Troy Williams.

During his time at Utah, Williams started in 15 of his 21 games as a Utes. With Williams as the team’s starting quarterback, Utah owned a 10-6 record.

After Huntley took over as Utah’s starting quarterback, the team posted a record of 23-10. He left Utah as the school’s third-winningest quarterback.

He was honored as First-team All-Pac-12 following his senior campaign.

Huntley is currently a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

BYU Cougars

Kalani Sitake hired as BYU’s head coach following Bronco Mendenhall’s departure

Following a tumultuous 2004 season, BYU promoted Bronco Mendenhall from defensive coordinator to the Cougars’ head coach. Over the following 11 seasons, Mendenhall led BYU to a 99-43 record.

After the 2015 campaign, Mendenhall took the head coaching job at Virginia and BYU hired former Cougar fullback Kalani Sitake as the program’s next coach.

In Sitake’s first season, BYU had a 9-4 record.

His second season in Provo was one of the worst in school history as the Cougars finished with a 4-9 record.

After Sitake made changes to his coaching staff, BYU bounced back with a pair of 7-6 seasons during the next two years.

In 2020, BYU recorded its best season in over a decade or two and finished with an 11-1 record.

As BYU’s head coach, Sitake owns an overall record of 38-26, including 3-1 in bowl games.

Zach Wilson takes over for Tanner Mangum as Cougars’ starting QB midseason

As a freshman in 2015, Tanner Mangum took over as BYU’s starting quarterback after Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending injury. Mangum helped the Cougars finish the season with a 9-4 record. Hill regained the starting job in 2016 before Mangum took over as the starter in 2017. Mangum was the team’s starter to begin both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

After the Cougars started the 2018 season with a 3-3 record, freshman Zach Wilson was inserted as BYU starting quarterback. Under Wilson, BYU finished the season with a 4-3 record, including a bowl victory.

Due to injury, Wilson played in nine of BYU’s games the following season and the Cougars ended the year with a 7-6 record.

As a junior in 2020, Wilson helped the Cougars to an 11-1 record.

Wilson passed for 3,692 yards and completed 74 percent of his passes during his impressive junior campaign.

On January 1, Wilson announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

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Changing Of The Guard: Transitions Of Power In Utah Sports