The Jazz owner touched on trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Utah’s market size, the NBA in-season tournament, and more.
Ever since Pat McAfee visited Utah with his ESPN College GameDay crew for the Utes’ game against Oregon, he’s been recounting his experience on his popular show, the Pat McAfee Show. Clips of him basically waxing poetic about the Beehive State made the rounds on social media for the last two weeks.
In continuation of McAfee’s newfound love affair with Utah, he invited Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake owner Ryan Smith onto his show on Wednesday. McAfee’s show films in Indianapolis, where the Jazz played the Pacers on the road.
The hour-long segment featured McAfee asking Smith a wide range of questions, from executing the trades of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to how he sells free agents on living in Utah. Below are some of the things the Jazz owner said during his appearance.
On trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
“It’s probably not the ideal start you want to do when you kind of draw it up and you’re coming in and you’re saying, ‘Hey we’re in the middle of something.’ You’re seeing a lot of teams right now that are going all in. I think in the West, we’ve got seven or eight teams who are literally going on all in on their franchises and they’re making decisions that they’re really taking assets from the future and pushing them in right now — kind of tomorrow always comes. We were at the tail end of that with Donovan and Rudy and everything. We just kind of had a chance where it felt like we needed to retool a bit to be able to go.”
On his relationship with Danny Ainge, Jazz CEO of Basketball Operations
“We were close. He’s someone that I always kind of gelled with. I would talk with him about the NBA. I never thought that I would be in a position where we would have a team, let alone be able to work with him. … First and foremost, we’re friends and we like to hang out together. … A lot of people, I think, get in my position and think they know. But he’s able to communicate with me. He’s able to talk me off the ledge. He’s able to rationalize with me. I think that’s a big part of it.”
On having Dwyane Wade as part-owner
“First of all, he’s one of one. … Phenomenal businessman, great partner, understands teamwork with incredible championship DNA. … I’ve always been a believer that you put the smartest people around that you can. You’re really trying to build a team and go at it. Any time you can get Dwyane Wade on your team, you do it.”
On delivering a ‘futuristic’ fan experience
“We took over an arena that’s always been sold out and we’re trying to figure out what is the futuristic experience. I think the way we host is completely different inside arenas. For example, in our arena, we built all of these bunker suites where actually it’s very similar to soccer if you’ve been to a Premier League game where you go and you eat and then you come out.”
“We’re trying to provide an experience. If you think about an NBA team, we’re truly a media company. You’ve got talent that’s on the floor, you’ve got a distribution channel and you’ve got this live experience that people can be a part of. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like when it you’re sitting down there or you’re sitting close. We’re just trying to deliver that experience all the way up to anyone in the arena. And then now with what we’re doing with streaming — we cut our own cord in Utah, which is kind of crazy, a little controversial. But we’ve taken that and are trying to deliver that same experience … to everyone, no matter where they’re at, for our team and this brand.”
On the NBA in-season tournament being an example of the league being forward-thinking
“These are new, disruptive ideas. I would argue that there’s a lot of other leagues that need to follow suit on trying to figure out on how disrupt themselves a little bit to innovate towards media landscape, consumption and where this is going, and fan experience.”
On selling ‘small market’ Utah to free agents
“One of our big things is I don’t believe Utah is a small market. There’s nothing that we have in common with other small markets. You can get on a plane and go right to London, Amsterdam, Paris. We’ve got I think the third-best tech ecosystem. Everyone who came for All-Star kind of saw that. What we normally get knocked for is nightlife. But during All-Star, we still stood up nightlife in, like, two weeks. It wasn’t hard at all. Standing up a tech ecosystem, that’s hard. We got seven million people to come in there. … Youngest demographic, No. 1 economy — it’s just going to get better.”
On owning other sports team in the future
“[The Jazz and RSL are] definitely not the end goal and that’s not where it’s going to stop. I’ve talked to [NHL Commissioner] Gary [Bettman] a lot. There’s no secret about how hockey would do there. … At Smith Entertainment Group, we’re open to all of it. We want to be a part of everything Utah. A lot of people I know who are in my spot are OK going Premiere League, somewhere else. I am all about Utah. I want to do sports, it’s something we’re in, but I want to do it in Utah because I believe in what’s happening there and where this is going.”