SALT LAKE CITY -- Larry H. Miller, the car sales mogul who turned the Utah Jazz into one of the NBA's most stable teams, died Friday from complications of type 2 diabetes. He was 64.
Miller was at home with his family when he passed away around 4 p.m.
Miller had a heart attack in June 2008, then spent nearly two months in the hospital for complications from diabetes. He was in a wheelchair after his release from the hospital and his medical problems continued, leading to the amputation of his legs six inches below the knee in January.
|The Jazz made two NBA Finals under owner Larry Miller. (AP)|
The Millers' five children, their families and friends packed a room at the Jazz practice facility Friday night for an emotional news conference, which included several lighthearted moments with memories from Miller's life right up until the final days.
Gail Miller said she got to tell her husband Thursday night that the Jazz had just beaten the NBA champion Boston Celtics, 90-85.
"He went peacefully. He was prepared. We were prepared," she said.
Greg Miller, who took over the family business last summer, said doctors told his father last week that his condition was terminal because of a rare complication that prevented oxygen from reaching tissue throughout his body.
"Prior to that announcement, he had every intention of beating this and getting back to a normal lifestyle," he said.
A tireless worker, Miller started his career in an auto parts shop, then built a car dealership empire that made him one of Utah's most recognized and influential people. Miller expanded his realm in 1985 when he bought a 50 percent share of the Jazz as the team appeared on the verge of moving to Miami.
Miller bought the rest of the team a year later, declining an offer that would have sent the team to Minnesota, and the team in the smallest media market in the NBA flourished. The Jazz made consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.
"Every citizen in our state feels a little empty today," Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said in a statement. "Larry was Utah and Utah was Larry. He inspired many and served countless. We all have been made better by his extraordinary life."
Miller had the good fortune to buy a team that had three of the longest tenures in league history: John Stockton, Karl Malone and coach Jerry Sloan. Stockton, the NBA's career leader in assists and steals, played all 19 of his seasons for the Jazz, 18 of them dishing the ball off to Malone as he scored the second-most points in NBA history.