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Jazz owner says he has no interest in buying RSL

Miller says Checketts’ plan was ill-conceived

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Jazz owner Larry H. Miller on Wednesday shot down rumors he might get involved with the Real Salt Lake soccer fiasco — and fired some salvos as well at Dave Checketts, the ex-Jazz president who owns RSL.

"I have never, ever gotten involved in soccer," Miller said. "I have no intention of it. And I'm serious — I've never talked to anybody about it.

"In fact, you may remember about ... four or six months ago Checketts was going on one of his diatribes and somebody said, 'Well, have you thought about Larry Miller?' and he said, 'I will never sell this team to Larry Miller,' and I turned to (wife) Gail and (said), 'Thank goodness.'

"Seriously," Miller added. "I don't mean to make too much light of it, but I have no interest at all."

Even if he were approached now by Checketts — who threatened to sell after his plan for a new soccer-specific stadium in Sandy was spoiled Monday by Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon — Miller would have no interest.

Miller went on to blast Checketts' rejected funding proposal.

"This particular plan, in my opinion, is very ill-conceived... " he said. "Checketts, from the beginning, has said he wants a deal like Larry Miller got (to build the Delta Center, the Jazz home now called EnergySolutions Arena). Two major counts: Our plan to repay the debt ... will be fully paid off in (about) three years; he has no plans to repay any debt. And I brought my money to the table, and it was demonstrable. So, those are the two key things — and he hasn't done either.

"If a better plan comes along — if it's a viable economic model — more power to 'em, whether it's him or somebody else that owns them. I have zero problem with soccer being here, whether it's downtown, in Sandy or down in Utah Valley. But (the plan) has got to have more substance."

Asked if Checketts' failed bid might spoil the efforts of others seeking public funds for various projects, Miller responded affirmatively.

"He screwed the market up for everybody. Period. And he's handled it so poorly," he said. "I mean, he's a bright guy... Maybe brilliant. But he's made so many stupid moves.

"He calls the people (politicians) who are making the decisions 'idiots,' or words to (that) effect.... That's not a good plan when you're trying to get help. So, he's definitely muddied the market. But the good thing is ... any plan for something like that would be scrutinized on its own merits.

"He can save the deal," Miller added, "if he has some substantive plan.... You can't do it all with smoke and mirrors."

As for repairing his relationship with Checketts — who once worked closely with Miller, only to have things turn ugly when Checketts wasn't given an opportunity to purchase a share of the Jazz — Miller sounded off.

"Probably ... (but) there's nothing to benefit out of it," he said. "Personally, I like Dave. I get along with him well. He expressed some frustration and even bitterness when we first parted company in the '80s, and then I interacted with him quite a bit in (NBA) activities for the next 10 years or so. And as far as I was concerned, and because of what he said, everything was fine, hunky-dory.

"Then it was him that started bringing up the past again. I haven't done that. Once in a while I've stood up ... to counter some of the pure nonsense he's said. You can spell that with another letter that starts with 'b,' with eight letters.

"I've never lobbied against him, and he knows better than that. In fact, I feel like I actually lobbied for him ... because I said to everyone that asked ... 'If he wants a Delta Center deal, and if he would do what he says and what I did, give it him."'

An RSL spokesperson was made aware of Miller's comments late Wednesday, but Checketts couldn't be reached.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

Contributing: Leigh Dethman