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What Ryan Smith said about the Jazz rebrand, possible Utah NHL team names, BYU and more

Utah Jazz owners Ashley Smith and Ryan Smith talk to media about NBA All-Star 2023 Weekend at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.
Utah Jazz owners Ashley Smith and Ryan Smith talk to media about NBA All-Star 2023 Weekend at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Ryan Smith has a lot of sports on his plate.

He owns the Utah Jazz and launched a new team rebrand just earlier this week, he owns soccer franchises Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC, he brought the NHL to Utah and fans are currently voting on potential team names for the state’s newly relocated franchise and he is a generous BYU booster and often involves himself with the affairs of his alma mater.

Amid all of his various activities, Smith found time Friday afternoon to appear on the “Hans and Scotty G.” radio show on KSL Sports Zone to discuss all of his latest developments. Here are some of the highlights from Smith’s appearance.

On the new Jazz rebrand and uniforms

“I love the Jazz. I love everything that we’re about. Our new release that we came up with has been something that we’ve been looking at for a long time, you know, trying to find something that we authentically own in Utah, and mountain basketball is just it. It’s what we are. There’s beach basketball, you go to (Los Angeles) or Miami. (But) we authentically can own mountain basketball, and I think it’s a box that we can color in for a long, long time. We’re excited about that.

Utah Jazz players model the team's new uniforms, which they'll break out during the 2024-25 season. | Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz players model the team's new uniforms, which they'll break out during the 2024-25 season. | Utah Jazz

“The purple is something that’s tricky, but you know, it’s what a lot of people want and know us as, and the purple with the mountains makes it better. I think the blue coming back also provides a lot of nostalgia for a lot of people in that (Deron Williams and Carlos) Boozer era. So I thought the team did an incredibly good job at rolling that out and kind of touched all the different pockets or genres of our fan base, because they aren’t just one fan base. They’re very different genres of folks when they think of the Jazz, and that’s awesome. A lot of teams would die for that kind of loyalty and fan base. I think it’s something that the team did a great job with.”

On allowing Utahns to vote for a new NHL team name

“You don’t get to start a brand from scratch very often. In the press conference, we said that this is a community asset ... it’s not about Ryan Smith, my family or our ownership group as much as it truly is about the community, so we want the community to be able to take part in naming it. We’ve come up with six names and it’s amazing. I didn’t think it would go nationally the way it has. I got a text last night from someone in the hockey industry and the only thing that said was, ‘This is what I voted for’ ... and that’s neat. I think it’s fun.”

On working with Danny Ainge to build the Jazz for the future

“You know, it’s hard to not watch (game one of the NBA Finals) last night and see Danny’s hands all over everything that’s been done in Boston. From my perspective, you really don’t bring Danny Ainge in and not let Danny Ainge do Danny Ainge things.

“I’m involved in all of the details around the team, but when it comes to basketball personnel and how we do it, you know, I’m a competitive guy. I want to win and I want to win now and I want to win always. We have that goal for our franchise to be able to do something we haven’t done, which is win a championship. It’s really, really important to me, and I’m going to be doing this for 30 years. That’s at least what I told (wife) Ashley. I said, ‘Hey, this is a 30-year calling, right?’ And so we’re doing it for 30 years, and we got our goals to win a championship.

Danny Ainge
Ryan Smith
Will Hardy
Utah Jazz's CEO, Danny Ainge, left, looks on as Jazz owner Ryan Smith and head coach Will Hardy fist bump while sitting court side before the start an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

“So, you know, we’re super fortunate to have Danny. He’s the GOAT in my mind. I think there’s three people who have a winning percentage in playing, coaching and being a GM in all of NBA history. For me personally, I just trust Danny more than I trust myself. All there is to it.”

On his involvement with BYU

“I think there’s a lot of questions on how involved I get. I think there’s probably a lot of misconceptions around why I’m involved. I was born in Eugene, Oregon ... and my father was a professor in University of Oregon. ... Oregon had what ended up being this business professorship that two Nobel Prize winners came out of. It was a little bit of the Mecca then, but it was also probably the Grateful Dead capital at that point as well, so it was a very different culture. To go from (Oregon) to BYU, to say it was probably a culture shock is an understatement. But my parents, probably similar to (Kevin Young), decided that (moving) was probably best for the kids and the family right now.

“They took a bet on going to BYU, so all five of us came out here. I grew up roaming those halls of BYU and being there. ... My parents split up and my dad took a year off to be with us kids because we were at a critical phase of life and BYU supported him through that. Fast forward 10 years after that and my dad gets Stage 4 throat cancer, and BYU supports him all the way through that, including working from home, resting, keeping everything there.

X4 Tech Summit_KM_571.JPG
Ryan Smith, Qualtrics co-founder and Utah Jazz owner, speaks at Qualtrics' X4 Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 2, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“I never viewed myself as a BYU student type of kid, and then as I went on my mission, I came back and said, ‘You know, I want to go to BYU.’ I went to UVU first, but I wanted to go to BYU. I had no college experience and was qualified to get in and had to go prove myself. I got there and then met my wife, started Qualtrics and the rest is history, so me supporting BYU is very, very not about sports.

“It’s about, you know, they supported my family when we were going through our craziest times like probably no employer I’ve ever seen. It would be really weird for me to be in the spot I’m in and not support them. This is probably a call out to anyone listening who’s an alumni of any university. University and academia, including athletics, they all need their alumni right now more than they’ve ever, ever, ever needed.”