Larry Miller remembered at arena

Updated: March 1, 2009, 1:02 PM ET
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller received a fitting farewell.

His funeral was held in the arena he built, his casket painted in the scheme of his beloved Shelby Cobras and his five children each driving a sports car in the procession to the cemetery where Miller was laid to rest Saturday.

Miller, 64, died of complications from diabetes on Feb. 20. His funeral was held eight days later at EnergySolutions Arena, home of the NBA franchise Miller twice kept from leaving his hometown. NBA commissioner David Stern and former players including Karl Malone were among about 2,000 people that attended the 90-minute Mormon ceremony.

Miller's children and grandchildren all recited memories of Miller, who started his career in an autoparts shop, expanded to car dealerships and built a business empire and became one of the most prominent figures in the state. A frugal businessman, Miller also donated generously to charities and many of his contributions were noted Saturday.

"There was a lot more to him than just the Jazz," coach Jerry Sloan said after the service.

About 30 flower arrangements were placed on and around the dais, where top officials from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sat facing the congregation. Church president Thomas S. Monson was the last of them to speak from the podium, just above the casket painted blue with white racing stripes down the middle.

Miller was a devout Mormon who refused the attend Jazz playoff games on Sundays, adhering to church guidelines to focus on the church and family activities that day. But his faith was one of the very few things that would keep Miller away from his team or any other part of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

Oldest son Greg, who took over the family business last summer, was the last of the five children to speak and led the convoy of sports cars from the arena in a blue Cobra convertible. Daughter Karen was the last to go in the procession, driving the red pace car from Miller Motorsports Park, the race track west of Salt Lake City that Miller built out of his passion for auto racing.

Son Steve recited a popular quote from rock star Bono: "Dream up the kind of world you want to live in -- dream out loud."

"My dad dreamed out loud," Steve Miller said. "I figured if Greg could paint the casket blue and white, I could quote Bono."

Most of the current Jazz, who hosted Sacramento later Saturday, sat together at the Jazz bench during the service and others attended a viewing the day before.

"He loved Jazz basketball," forward Kyle Korver said. "I think he was the most hands-on owner that I've seen."

One of the floral arrangements was a large replica of the patch the Jazz added to their jerseys. It's the team's original logo, a purple music note with green and gold and the initials LHM on top.

Miller has owned the team since buying a 50 percent share in 1985 and the rest a year later. Buyers from other cities tried to lure the Jazz out of Utah, but each time Miller blocked the deal, determined to make the NBA team work in the tiny market.

Miller was involved with every aspect of the team, even having a locker with a "Miller" name plate next to the players' lockers. When the Jazz played poorly, Miller was known to interrupt halftime or make a postgame speech -- reminding the players what he expected for his money.

Former center Greg Ostertag chuckled when he recounted one of the many tirades he saw from Miller during his 10 seasons with the Jazz.

"We played real bad one time and you could hear him coming, man. You knew he was going to come in there and rant and rave, but he had every right to," Ostertag said. "It was not a lot a lot of words you can say on TV."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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