Although the announcement caught many people by surprise, the resignation of David Checketts as general manager of the Utah Jazz basketball franchise was not totally unexpected. After all, he joined the team in 1983 on a leave of absence from a Boston consulting firm. He actually stayed with the Jazz longer than he had planned.
Yet the departure of the 33-year-old "boy wonder" is still a disappointment. In his six years with the Jazz, Checketts has turned the franchise from a near failure into a profitable professional basketball operation. Of course, owner Larry Miller, whose cash lifted the Jazz out of long-standing debt, had a great deal to do with it, too.While he is not going back to his old job and has no other immediate offers in hand, Checketts has been regarded as a talented manager and was offered the job as general manager of the New York Knicks basketball team in 1987.
Certainly, his work with the Jazz has been remarkable. The team has prospered not only financially, but competitively as well, reaching a franchise record 51 wins this past season. Plans also are well advanced for a new Jazz arena to be built near the present Salt Palace.
All of this has happened despite the fact that the team is located in the smallest population market in the National Basketball Association.
The reasons for Checketts' leaving are complex. They include some differences with Miller on management styles, although the two respect each other greatly. Miller has tended to be a "hands on" owner, rather than a passive figure in the background.
Checketts also has wanted to become a part owner of an NBA team, something that apparently did not work out in the Utah Jazz operation. And finally, the task of turning a desperate situation into a successful one has become less demanding. Checketts seems to thrive on what he calls "running on all eight cylinders" in the face of big challenges.
Certainly, much remains to be done with the Utah franchise. But, all things considered, Checketts felt it was time to move on.
The departure of the youthful Checketts takes some of the sparkle out of the Jazz operation. We hope he enjoys great success in whatever lies ahead. Given his enormous energy and talent, there is little doubt that it will be so.
As for the Jazz, the franchise is on solid footing. The goal now must be to continue the financial and athletic improvements that are making the team a solid asset to Utah.