Laughs aplenty as Utahns spend a night with NBA stars Mike Conley and Joe Ingles in ‘Voices’ event at Olympus High
Conley shows off his new hairstyle, while Ingles flies in from Portland Tuesday afternoon and poignantly discusses his fondness for children on the autism spectrum, including his own
Utah Jazz fan Kylen Broadhead, a 12-year-old youth basketball player from South Jordan, didn’t think he would laugh much when his parents surprised him with tickets to Tuesday night’s “Voices” event at Olympus High School in Salt Lake City with current Jazzman Mike Conley and former Jazz player Joe Ingles, traded a few months ago to the Portland Trailblazers.
Instead, Broadhead and his pal, Dexter Mason, chuckled and grinned repeatedly as Ingles and Conley spoke to the audience and answered questions for more than an hour before taking photographs with some lucky fans.
“It was fun to get to know them better,” Broadhead said. “I didn’t realize that they were such big comedians.”
Mason, also 12 and from South Jordan, agreed.
“You can tell they are really good guys,” he said.
Indeed, laughs were aplenty as Ingles and Conley played off each other well, deftly responding to questions from moderator Debbie Worthen of KSL-TV and pre-screened questions from the audience, which filled about half of Olympus’ auditorium. Billed as “conversations with some of today’s most inspirational and influential voices” and co-sponsored by the Deseret News, the series kicked off March 22 with former University of Utah and NFL quarterback Alex Smith.
Questions about Ingles’ recent trade to Portland were apparently off-limits, so the night was not nearly as compelling as when Smith outlined his comeback from a career- and life-threatening injury. But a good time was had by most, as Ingles and Conley opened up about their feelings on Utah, raising families in this state and Ingles’ involvement with autism-supporting charities after his son, Jacob, was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when he was 2.
Conley, sporting a new hair style that he said was done Monday, said very little about the upcoming NBA playoffs in front of the audience. The Jazz open the playoffs at Dallas on Saturday. Portland didn’t make the playoffs, although Ingles wouldn’t have played anyway because he is still rehabbing (mostly at the University of Utah, he said) after having ACL reconstruction surgery on Feb. 23.
At a backstage meet-and-greet before the event, Conley said the Jazz feel good about their chances, don’t know if injured Mavericks star Luka Doncic (calf strain) is going to play and are almost back to full strength health-wise. “We will be ready to play,” he said.
Conley was traded to the Jazz in June of 2019 after 12 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies and said his first thought about Utah was that it snowed here a lot and was cold year-round.
“When we got here, it was mid- to late-summer and it was hot as all get out, something like 100-plus degrees,” he said. “I am like, ‘What is this?’”
Looking back, Conley said he had an “awesome introduction” to the state and was impressed by the spirit of camaraderie within the team. He said Ingles was one of the first Jazz players to text him and welcome him to Utah.
“The first thing he asked me is if I play cards,” Conley said. “I knew what that meant. I said, ‘No, I don’t play cards. I don’t have enough money to play cards with you.’”
Conley said he, his wife and three boys love Utah and all that it offers, even if the rest of the family is getting to enjoy it more than him.
“They are constantly doing things,” he said. “Every time I come home, they are skiing somewhere, or they are down in St. George … or Arches (National Park) or at the Salt Flats, or somewhere like that. I haven’t seen anything yet, so I get to live through them.”
Ingles, who also has three children, said Utah feels like home for his family and they’ve enjoyed every minute of it. He referenced the elephant in the room — his trade from Utah to Portland last February after his knee injury — a couple of times but offered no outright opinion on the matter, or complaint.
New hairstyle for Mike Conley for playoffs. pic.twitter.com/EaKzvw7Icm— Jay Drew (@drewjay) April 13, 2022
“We have loved it here,” he said, noting that the family will go back to Australia for the first time in three years this summer when his oldest child finishes the school year in Salt Lake City in June. “We will see what happens in the future.”
He said the “silver lining” to his injury is getting to spend more time with his wife and family.
Asked what he loves about Utah, Ingles said there are a lot of underrated restaurants and noted ruefully that growing up he thought Olive Garden was a really good restaurant, which drew laughter.
Hearing that, Conley quipped: “It still is.”
Before the discussion, Olympus High basketball player Jack Wistrcill, the Deseret News’ 5A MVP who is headed to play college ball at Northern Arizona University, presented the players with a gift bag from the school that included Titans basketball jerseys (Olympus won the 5A state championship last month) and Olympus socks.
“It was really cool to have these very important people to the whole state of Utah come to our school and talk to us,” said Wistrcill, who was accompanied by Olympus’ student body president.
Wistrcill said what stood out to him was how personable and down-to-earth the players were, having met them backstage.
“Everything they say is so authentic,” he said. “Like when the guy asked about ice cream, the answer was so real. They are not making anything up. Everything comes from within the heart.”
Speaking of which, Conley said his favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate and Ingles never got around to giving his. He did say he can eat all the desserts he wants now that he isn’t playing at the moment.
Is playing basketball still fun for these veterans with nearly a combined 30 years of experience under their belts?
Absolutely, they said.
“It is a lot of fun,” Conley said. “You don’t play 15-something years and not have fun. … We don’t play this long without having a joy for the game. So it is truthfully the most fun thing to do that I know.”
Talking about how fatherhood has changed him, Conley had the audience laughing when he told a story about how Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who is single, wanted to go out to eat after a game and Conley had to decline “because I have to go home and change diapers.”
Ingles also spoke about how much he loves his family, saying: “My kids will come first forever.”
Talking about the moment he and his wife were told that Jacob is on the autism spectrum, Ingles said he cried, but not out of fear or shame or disappointment, but love.
“It has been a heck of a journey,” he said.
Asked how he has avoided getting a technical foul in his long NBA career, Conley said it is because he doesn’t let adversity rattle him.
“Guys are always trying to get under my skin,” he said.
Lisa Carter drove seven hours to the event to meet Conley, and after hearing that Conley invited her on the stage for a hug and a signed basketball.
Ingles said when he was traded he thought he would get “kicked off” the event — rescheduled from a few months ago due to COVID-19 issues — but was happy to learn that wouldn’t be the case. He said he flew in from Portland Tuesday afternoon after watching the Jazz-Blazers season finale Sunday night in the Rose City.
Asked for their final thoughts before the picture-taking portion of the event took place, both players used the time to thank people for coming to the event despite the wintry weather and for welcoming them to Utah years ago.
And a couple kids from South Jordan thanked them for the unexpected laughs.
Stage ready for arrival of Ingles and Conley pic.twitter.com/SeGozAhpcd— Jay Drew (@drewjay) April 13, 2022