Ryan Smith says there’s an argument the Jazz went ‘too clean’ in rebrand

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith looks on before the start of their NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith admitted that there’s an argument the Jazz went a bit “too clean” with the new rebrand, especially when it comes to the new yellow and black jersey. Still, he said there was a reason behind it.

Speaking at an event promoting UFC 278 that will take place at Vivint Arena on Aug. 20, Smith said the Jazz wanted to get a more “simplified” look and a “unified color scheme that we can work with throughout the state. And that’s really exciting. Both in the arena and outside the arena.”

The purple, black and yellow combo will serve as that; and according to Smith, there’s been some promising data that shows fans may like it more than the online vitriol suggests.

When it comes to online sales, he said, the new purple gear is, unexpectedly, the most sought after items. In person, however, that’s flipped — many fans have gravitated toward the new yellow and black merchandise. That, to him, shows that when fans see it in person, they are more receptive.

That doesn’t mean it’s a finished product, however.

“There’s probably a fair argument that we went a little too clean,” Smith said. “OK, but it will evolve and it will go.”

Smith didn’t downplay the purple aspect of it, either; he pushed back on the narrative that focusing on the purple throwback jersey was a rebrand pivot after fan reaction to the leaks of the black and yellow design were less than enthusiastic.

“We want purple to be a massive part of our color scheme going forward. We have not had purple as part of our color scheme in 20 years. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams never wore purple,” he said. “We brought it back twice on annual throwbacks, but that’s who we are when you talk to opposing players that played us back in the day. They associate purple with the Jazz, and it’s a little tricky because there’s two other purple teams out there in Sacramento (Kings) and LA (Lakers), but we want that to be a big part of our brand going forward. So we’ll get it right.”

On the coaching search

Smith more or less confirmed a report by The Athletic that stated the Jazz have begun a second round of interviews with most of what is a long list of candidates.

Those candidates include current assistants Alex Jensen and Lamar Skeeter, Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Celtics assistant Will Hardy, Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney, Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla, Pistons assistant Jerome Allen , 76ers assistant Sam Cassell, Suns assistant Kevin Young, G League head coach Jason Terry, former Lakers coach Frank Vogel, and ex-Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts.

But he admitted he hasn’t been that involved in the process with CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik.

“I believe that you hire the best and you empower them, and I don’t think there’s a better basketball brain than Danny; he’s definitely on the Mount Rushmore of NBA executives,” Smith said. “The way he and Justin are doing this process, I will come in at the end and see the recommendations, see what they want to do and have long discussions and interviews and meet the candidates at the end. But outside of that, I won it advises them.”

Smith added that’s how he plans to approach the other offseason decisions, too. He’ll be the one to ultimately say yes, but he’ll let the executives work them out without his involvement. So, with that, he didn’t get into any specifics on the team’s plans.

On the draft

The Jazz currently don’t have a pick in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday, but Smith would be surprised if it stayed that way; or, at the very least, he’s hoping it won’t.

This will be his third draft as the owner of the team, and both times the Jazz have made draft-day moves. In 2020, the team traded back to select center Udoka Azubuike and traded back into the second round to take Elijah Hughes. In 2021, the team traded back to take Jared Butler.

This, though, will be Ainge’s first draft leading the Jazz front office. Ainge was the main architect in the Celtics’ run to the NBA Finals this season, having drafted key contributors Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown, Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard.

“With Danny’s track record, I mean, I’d love to get as many picks as possible. But it’s a marketplace, so it has to be right,” Smith said.

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.

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