SALT LAKE CITY — When he borrowed $8 million in 1985 to purchase a one-half interest in the Utah Jazz, Larry H. Miller became one of Utah's most visible residents.
Over the next quarter century, Miller exceeded all expectations.
The day after Miller died at the age of 64 of complications from type 2 diabetes almost a year ago, staff writer Doug Robinson wrote in the Feb. 21, 2009, Deseret News:
"Miller's story is a chapter out of Horatio Alger. A poor high school student and a college dropout, he … became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Utah history, and one of its most prominent residents.
"Miller not only became the 10th largest car dealer in the nation, with 42 dealerships in six states, but he also began acquiring other businesses in the coming years. The Larry H. Miller Group eventually included 74 business enterprises — movie theaters, auto dealerships, a world-class race track, a movie production company, an advertising agency, ranches, restaurants, TV and radio stations, a real estate development company, an NBA franchise, a professional baseball team, an NBA arena, a motorsports park, sports apparel stores and various philanthropic organizations."
Once Miller purchased Utah's premier professional sport franchise, he became a popular subject for Deseret News photographers. Photo researcher Ron Fox has culled the newspaper archives for many of these moments. The photos can be seen now online at the newspaper's Web site, www.deseretnews.com.
Miller's personal style — emotional, honest and candid — made him the focus of media and fan attention, and generated many photo opportunities as he interacted with his players.
Kurt Kragthorpe wrote in a Nov. 3, 1987, Deseret News article:
"Before a Utah Jazz game in the Salt Palace, forward Karl Malone was playing one-on-one against a balding man in a Jazz practice uniform.
"Later, an opposing player asked the identity of Malone's opponent. When Malone told him, the player exclaimed, 'That's your owner?!'
"That's his owner."
Deseret News sports writer Brad Rock reported in a March 15, 1994, story:
"The … contest ended in a wild 102-101 Jazz victory at the Delta Center Monday night. But not before a fierce scramble at the finish and a heated sideline incident involving that famous team owner/pugilist, Larry H. Miller, who threatened to take a piece out of L.A.'s Elden Campbell.
" 'Sorta takes you back a little,' said Karl Malone, his eyes widening in mock horror. 'Nice, church-goin' guy like that.' "
Two months later, Miller got into a halftime altercation with a Denver Nuggets fan that got national attention. Sports writer Linda Hamilton wrote in a May 20, 1994, Deseret News story:
"With that familiar emotional sincerity, Jazz owner Larry H. Miller apologized to much of the world Thursday. He said several times that he'd been stupid. He said he embarrassed himself, his family, the team, city and state. 'I screwed up,' he said. 'This isn't my style.'
"He announced an NBA-approved, somewhat self-imposed exile from Thursday's game in Denver and the next two home games. And he said he probably won't expend so much time and energy watching the Jazz in the future."
Fortunately, that didn't happen. Miller maintained his high profile, and in a May 17, 2001, Deseret News article, the newspaper named Miller one of the most influential people in the state.
At the time of his death, wrote Robinson, "Miller's influence touched nearly everyone in his home state, whether it was through the car dealerships that lined State Street, or his movie theaters, or his pet TV projects (the Joseph Smith Papers), or his professional baseball and basketball teams, or his TV and radio stations, and so forth. Even Miller, in his reverie later in life, couldn't help notice his was an extraordinary life."
And we have the pictures to prove it.