All that Jazz: Former beat writer releases book for Utah Jazz fans
May 08, 2019 04:59PM
● By Julie Slama
Seen here with two of his four children, Jackson (left) and Aidan, Jody Genessy opens a box of his books, “100 Things Jazz Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.” (Photo courtesy of Heather Genessy)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Watching his sons’ lacrosse games and his daughter’s volleyball games, Deseret News writer Jody Genessy says he’s watching his favorite sporting events, a far cry from when he was a self-described “fanatic” Utah Jazz fan who painted his face before going to the NBA games with his dad or spending nine years as a beat writer covering his favorite basketball team.
Even after calling it quits, like many greats before him — Jazz point guard John Stockton, power forward Karl Malone, one of the all-time winning most coaches Jerry Sloan, Genessy occasionally has returned to the arena, filling in on the beat, knowing the workload ahead of him.
“I loved covering the Jazz,” he said. “As a kid, I tried to spin the ball like Adrian Dantley, and I grew up watching the Jazz. Covering the Jazz, I was there first hand to see them, but it was also madness. It was a crazy travel schedule. I saw a lot of airports, car rentals, hotels and arenas, but never the touristy sites. “
Genessy said his routine would include covering morning shoot-arounds to get quotes then return to the arena at 5 p.m. to interview coaches, transcribe notes, look at stats before covering the game. He was on the road 90 days per year.
“I tried to show readers what it was like behind the scenes,” he said. “I had access to the guys in the locker room and I wanted to give Jazz fans a flavor, a feel of what it was like. By the end, I was mentally exhausted, it was a grind, and I knew it was time I needed to change my beat.”
Just after he let go of covering the Jazz in 2017, he was approached about writing the book “100 Thing Jazz Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” which recently was released in time for the end of the season and playoffs. It has already been a steady seller on Amazon and will have a second printing.
After thinking about writing the book for a week and being encouraged by everyone, especially his wife, he agreed. One week later he had an outline of the book’s 100 chapters.
“As I sat down and typed up a list, Pete Maravich, the Jazz name, the team moving to Salt Lake City, Adrian Dantley, Stockton’s short shorts, ‘City of Utah,’ I became excited about the book,” he said.
Carving out time from his family, full-time job and working as a health coach, Genessy spent the next five months, “writing it a little bit everywhere” in the break room at the Deseret News, at his home office, even at McDonald’s in his hometown of Herriman where he had free Wi-Fi and drink refills.
He spent hours “strolling through memory lane:” watching Jazz highlights from Pete Maravich (“I would have loved to see him play”) to Michael Jordan pushing off Bryon Russell in the NBA finals, and rereading his nine years of stories, including covering the Hall of Fame inductions.
He read other accounts of the team, interviewed current and former players and coaches. Genessy even put out a poll on Twitter, which Mehmet Okur humorously responded, so it was included in “100 Things” book.
“I did get some fresh interviews, but I also used a lot of research,” he said. “If there was a good quote or information from a game at the time, it was truer than recalling it three decades later, so I gave credit. It’s been neat, emotional, reliving memories and comebacks. I had forgotten or didn’t known some of the pranks I wrote about, like Adrian Dantley being fined 30 pieces of silver. It’s a funny story.”
The book tells stories of “the shot,” which Stockton relived 20 years later (but “he only got off his tippy toes” this time around) to point guard Mo Williams posting on social media about Big Al Jefferson’s 10-foot-by-12-foot bed, which “nobody wanted to move so it sold with the house” when Jefferson left.
Other stories and chapters got cut, Genessy said as he wrote 110,000 words when the book editor requested only 60,000 to 70,000. Fortunately, his favorite chapter, “Stockton’s shorts,” remained.
“I love how that was laid out in the book,” he said. “I wrote ‘In honor of John Stockton’s trunks, the chapter will be short. The end.’ And it ended the page. I also loved writing about the ‘City of Utah’; it cracked me up to relive it. I think the ‘Villains’ chapter was fun to write and entertaining to read.”
Genessy said covering the Jazz, he had to “be fair, not a fan,” writing about “good performances and when they struggle.” He also had to learn to read the players and coaches.
At one point in the book, he wrote he received a stern response by Sloan when he questioned Carlos Boozer’s struggling game.
“Sloan defends his players, and if outsiders question and give too much grief, they can feel his reproach,” Genessy said. “One time I talked to him and asked, ‘Have you considered toying with the lineup?’ He said, ‘I don’t toy with anything.’ It was a poor choice of my words, and I got a stern look from Jerry. You don’t want to be on the end of it.”
Genessy wrote about the Jazz at times he wasn’t on the beat, interviewing others to gain perspective. One such occasion was to address the 1992 playoffs that got delayed against the Los Angeles Clippers after the Rodney King trial verdict was announced and the team found itself escorted to practice facilities for their safety.
Genessy also missed covering the Jazz during Frank Layden’s reign, but he asked him to write the forward to his book.
“It was an honor to interview Frank Layden,” Genessy said. “He was the bridge from the early days until now. He’s the ambassador for the Jazz, being the funny guy and able to put everything into perspective. He’s still very much admired.”
On the beat, he said he had to adjust to the players as he interviewed them.
“Deron Williams always wore his emotions on his sleeve, so if he had a bad day, he didn’t want to talk,” he said. “Alec Burks always gave short answers. He didn’t want to be interviewed, so the interview would be done in one minute. Mehmet Okur always gave four responses (because of the Turkish to English language barrier), but over the years, his English got better.”
On the upside, Genessy said many players were great to interview, and Earl Watson was especially fun and gregarious. Every interview he had with current coach Quin Snyder, Genessy felt he “got smarter about basketball. He is a good teacher, brilliant.”
Genessy also appreciated Gordon Hayward’s dad driving him around Indianapolis one day, giving him insight about his son, which was revealed in the book addressing their “van talk.”
“I could see how he tried to help and their relationship — the love and support of each other,” he said. “He opened the door into their lives and gave light to the up and coming player. It made a great story.”
Genessy tried to put the chapters in priority order and consulted others before naming his first chapter, “Stockton to Malone.”
“I talked to (Deseret News columnist) Lee Benson who said Larry H. Miller would be his No. 1 chapter,” he said about one of the sports writers he admires along with Deseret News writers Brad Rock and Doug Robinson. “Without Larry Miller, there probably would be no Utah Jazz. But for 20 years, the Jazz were ‘Stockton to Malone,’ and in a lot people’s minds, they still are. They’re the foundation; they have the statues, the streets on the map.”
Decades later, Genessy now sees current teammates Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, which he nicknamed the Stifle Tower, as what may become “the next generation of ‘Stockton to Malone.’”
While writing the book may be Genessy’s “final chapter” in writing about the Jazz, it isn’t of his support for the team. Now Genessy, who has more flexibility in his current Deseret News assignment, may be watching the playoffs on the sidelines with his four children.
“We invest our heart and soul in teams; we want the championship,” he said. “We follow the sport, fall in love with the people, fantasize our role on the team, yell, be supportive, wear the gear. This year, if Utah wins the first and second rounds (against the league’s toughest teams), it will be a breeze to win the NBA finals.”