10 questions with Jody Genessy

Jody Genessy is a sports reporter with the Deseret News and author of 100 things every Jazz fan should know and do before they die (Triumph Books, 2019).

Welcome! Before we begin, would you tell us a little bit about your background in sports journalism and introduce 100 things Jazz fans should know and do before they die?

I’m celebrating my 25th year with the Deseret News this month, and it’s been quite the adventure. I’ve covered everything from high school sports to Utah colleges, the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Sundance Film Festival and the Jazz.

My journalism career began, as you’d probably guess, at McDonald’s. I was assigned to do a work newsletter while working there in college. I dubbed it “The McD Monthly.” Even though that publication only lasted two issues, it inspired me to pursue a career in writing. I was hired by the D-News in 1994 after working for the school newspaper (“The Horizon”) and the athletic department at Salt Lake Community College.

After covering the Jazz from 2008-17 for the paper, a publishing company approached me about writing a book about that NBA franchise. The concept involves sharing the most intriguing stories from throughout the organization’s 45-year history. For me, a native of Kearns, Utah, and a lifelong sports junkie, this was a fun stroll through memory lane. I tried to make the book entertaining and informative so that it would be compelling for fans of all intensity levels.

Who is Frank Layden and how did you decide upon him to write the Foreword?

Frank Layden is a legend, not just in the Utah sports world, but also in basketball circles. He was the general manager of the Jazz when they moved from New Orleans in 1979 and took over as head coach a few years later. He guided the team to its first playoff appearance in 1984 and became well-known around the NBA for having a sharp basketball mind and an even sharper wit.

Because of his gregarious personality, Layden became the face of the franchise. In the early days, he’d joke that when people asked what time the game was starting, he’d respond, “What time can you be there?”

He was in charge of team personnel when the Jazz drafted John Stockton and Karl Malone, and then handed the coaching baton over to Jerry Sloan several years later so he could have more of a life outside of basketball. He’s been a terrific ambassador for the Jazz for 40 years, and I was very honored that he agreed to write the foreword and share some insight with us.

What factors did you consider when ranking the book’s ‘100 things’?

Honestly, I spent a whole lot more time thinking about which chapters to include in the book — and, unfortunately, which ones to not include — than I did the ranking. But I think for the most part the 1-100 order is pretty indicative of the most important and memorable moments.

It’s very subjective. There are probably 25 chapters I included that another writer might not include. I tried to have some fun chapters like one about John Stockton’s short shorts and another about players who’ve referred to the “city of Utah” over the years. There’s certainly some personal and recency bias in the order, but I like all of the chapters.

On that note, what takes the No. 1 spot?

The easiest decision was putting John Stockton and Karl Malone in the No. 1 spot — together, of course. They were the Utah Jazz for 20 years. The Hall of Fame duo put the Jazz on the basketball map. They became worldwide stars and rewrote parts of the record book.

A colleague said he would’ve put Larry H. Miller in the No. 1 position because the late Jazz owner kept the team from being relocated on several occasions and then invested his heart, soul and bank account into the franchise. I respect that even though LHM is Chapter No. 7 in my book behind Stockton and Malone (together and individually), Jerry Sloan, The Shot and the 1997 NBA Finals.

After the top 25-30, it became a bit more difficult to rank.

What do you most remember from the moments leading up to and following ‘the shot’? (#5)

Jazz fans all remember where they were when John Stockton hit “The Shot” that sent Utah to its first NBA Finals in 1997. I was in my apartment building, then ran hysterically out into the complex screaming with my buddies and eventually ended up at the airport to greet the team in the middle of the night with seemingly half of the state’s population.

Some sports writers like to pretend they’re above being a fan of any particular team, but I was a diehard Jazz fan growing up and this was a special moment. (For the record, I was not covering the team at the time. I put my fandom away during those years.)

As far as the Jazz go, they needed a nice comeback just to be in position for Stockton’s heroic heave. I think my favorite part of that play was the pick set by Karl Malone. It was more of a bearhug on Clyde Drexler. It was also fun that Stockton hit the shot over a lunging Charles Barkley. And TV viewers got a kick out of Bill Walton uttering, “Uh, oh” upon Stockton’s release.

Misunderstandings persist about the retirement of Jerry Sloan. What actually happened? (#20)

Ultimately, I think Jerry Sloan just got worn down by the daily grind of the NBA season, by the immense pressure that comes with that job and by the difficulties involved in coaching players with big egos.

Deron Williams deserved some of the blame for being a pain in the (bleep) to coach, and Sloan might’ve kept coaching if not for that particular run-in.

But it was more of a cumulative effect than that one singular event. I think Larry H. Miller might’ve been able to keep Sloan in place. They had that kind of relationship.

But the longtime coach — 23 years is an eternity for an NBA coach — just didn’t have any more gas in the tank to deal with the situation as it was at that point.

Why did Michael Jordan mention Bryon Russell in his Hall of Fame speech and what did he say? (#57)

This was an interesting story. I was covering the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony that year. Michael Jordan was inducted along with John Stockton and Jerry Sloan in 2009.

I was writing my stories and listening to Jordan’s speech when I surprisingly heard him mention Bryon Russell’s name.

What!?

I go into greater detail in the book, but long story short, Russell jokingly popped off about being able to guard Jordan while His Airness was retired (the first time) and it sparked the all-time great player’s desire to return to the NBA. Jordan later got his revenge in the Finals.

Give us a sampling of a few people you identify as ‘Jazz villains’ and a line or two of commentary for each. (#60)

This list seems to get bigger every year, and often expands with former Jazz fan favorites (see: Gordon Hayward, Derek Fisher, Enes Kanter). Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are all superstars that Jazz fans love to hate.

Jordan tore out Utah’s collective heart and disrespected Salt Lake City when it hosted the All-Star Game, so he’s close to the top of the list — if not at the top.

Bryant was perceived as being cocky and Jazz fans have always loved to hate the Lakers.

James was once given a standing ovation for scoring 52 points in Utah and he’s lost seven straight times when playing in SLC, so there is some respect along with the vitriol felt toward him.

The Jazz’s all-time villain might be Dennis Rodman. He played the role of heel exceptionally well.

What are some of the jobs Karl Malone had—or wanted to have? (#82)

This was another fun chapter to write. The list of jobs Malone either had or coveted included, but is not limited to: state trooper, fitness instructor, politician, trucker, rancher, car salesman, haberdasher, logger and pro wrestler.

Karl Malone (left) on a USO tour at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2011. Credit: Chad J. McNeeley

Despite his nickname, The Mailman has never been employed by the USPS. Oh yeah, he also earned a pretty decent living as a basketball player.

What do you see the Jazz accomplishing in the next five years?

Great question. I have high hopes for this team. They’ve made the playoffs three years in a row after an extended absence, and I love the foundation pieces they have in place.

They have a sensational scorer in Donovan Mitchell, who can create his own (often dazzling) shots.

They have the best defensive player in the league in 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert, who protects the paint like nobody else. And they have a really nice complementary third piece in Joe Ingles, who can do bit of everything, including getting under the skin of opponents with his top-tier trash-talking.

I think they need another scorer or two and more consistent point guard play. If they get that, I could honestly see them among the championship contenders within the next five years.

Somebody’s gotta win after the Warriors’ reign of terror. It might as well be them, right?

Who makes your fantasy all-time starting five Jazz team?

Point guard: John Crotty. Oops. John Stockton, of course. There’s nobody who can run the offense and get teammates involved like the NBA’s all-time assists leader.

Honorable mention: Deron Williams and Rickey Green.

Shooting guard: Pete Maravich. Pistol Pete was a shell of the player he’d been in Louisiana — with the Jazz and LSU — by the time he got to Utah because of injuries. But he was an amazing scorer.

Honorable mention: Jeff Hornacek and Darrell Griffith.

Small forward: Adrian Dantley. Despite his 6-4 frame, A.D. could light up the scoreboard in a variety of clever ways.

Honorable mention: Andrei Kirilenko and Gordon Hayward.

Power forward: Karl Malone. He put the power in power forward. His durability, strength and continual improvement were all laudable.

Honorable mention: Carlos Boozer and Derrick Favors. Truck Robinson could be listed as well, but he didn’t play long.

Center: Mark Eaton. There’s never been a shot blocker like the 7-foot-4 former mechanic. He was a dominant defender. Rudy Gobert is close to surpassing him because of his efficiency on offense and The Stifle Tower’s defensive prowess.

Honorable mention: Mehmet Okur and his 3-point shooting.

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