Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley made a visit to Utah Valley University students at the Rebecca D. Lockhart Arena on Wednesday, April 13 as another speaker in the UVUSA Senate Speaker Series. Conley gave many great insights into his career, his game-day routine, and offered some powerful advice to all audiences.
Conley was asked immediately how he was feeling about the upcoming NBA playoffs.
“It’s super busy… We’re really locked in. We’re going over things two, three, four, five times just to make sure they’re right,” said Conley. “Guys are anxious, excited. We feel like we have a really good team and we’re excited to play against Dallas and show them what we’re made of so everything can come forward.”
Conley expressed how lucky he feels to play for the Jazz with talented stars like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. He appreciated his transition from the Memphis Grizzlies, coming in and being a mentor to the younger players while not having to take as much of an offensive load. Conley feels like he can play forever and will keep getting better for the team.
Conley’s role on the Jazz changes everyday. Sometimes he’s asked by head coach Quinn Snyder to play defense and let Donovan Mitchell score, sometimes he is asked to be the scorer when Mitchell is locked up.
He said he enjoyed playing against Memphis in the first round of the NBA Playoffs last year, playing against fans and players he used to play in front of. He knew he was there for business and was able to revisit the people he loved after the series.
He also acknowledged the difficult year the Jazz had suffered after several players rotated in and out of the lineup, including players he met the day of a game.
“Every team was going through that at some point,” said Conley. “We weathered the storm. We’re healthy, we’re feeling good. All of that stuff we went through, all of that adversity we went through… hopefully, turned around and made us a stronger team, a closer unit. Our season is far from over, so we’re excited for what’s to come.”
Conley said the team feels prepared for Luka Donic and the Dallas Mavericks. He acknowledged how the Jazz split with the Mavericks in the regular-season 2-2, with both teams winning only at home, respectively. He anticipates a good challenge facing Doncic and the deep-rostered Mavericks.
Conley doesn’t think of himself as the nicest player in the NBA, but tries to be friendly and approachable towards everyone he meets. His friends and teammates all vouch him being, ‘a cool dude.’ During his 15 year career, Conley has a remarkable zero technical fouls and is a three-time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.
Work Off the Court
Conley is also an active supporter in the communities he has lived in, having supported the Memphis National Civil Rights Museum and wore “I am a Man” on the back of his jersey in 2020 to support those from the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. He has also donated to numerous organizations to help others.
Conley’s belief in helping the community comes from when his parents helped teach him to give back. He explained how he can use his position to create a platform and voice for creating change in people’s lives and inspiring people through basketball and in-person meetings. He believes that helping the community is a responsibility with the job. Conley also mentioned that he and former-Jazz player Joe Ingles will partner together to help the community.
Conley served as an executive producer for the short-film “The Two Distant Strangers” that won an oscar for best live-action short-fim in 2021 after reaching Sundance and Netflix. He joined during the pandemic and learned a lot after having no prior knowledge of filmmaking. His earnings went to charity.
Conley explained how surreal the 2020 NBA bubble was after COVID-19 taking place. He made the tough decision to enter the bubble despite his wife being seven months pregnant. He knew that the team needed to do their job and tried to have fun in the process.
“It was an interesting time,” said Conley. “A lot of interesting things going on.”
Being away from his family was difficult, but Conley flew back home an after the birth of his son to be with his family for 20 hours before flying back to Orlando where he was quarantined for four to five days in order to rejoin the Jazz in the playoffs.
Conley’s game-day routine starts with his kids waking him up at 6:30 a.m. He then takes his kids to school before practicing for two hours. After practice, he transitions back and forth between the hot tub and the cold tub for 30-45 minutes before getting some shots up and taking a nap prior to his kids get home from school. Conley heads to the arena at 4 p.m. where he will repeat the process of hot and cold tubs, stretch, and eat healthy foods as his ritual before a game.
After initially speaking, the floor was opened up for students to ask questions.
Conley was first asked about his collegiate career. He said that he never considered reaching the NBA before his magical NCAA Tournament run to the Final Four with the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2004 season. After the accomplishments, Conley began to believe in himself and that he belonged in competing against great players.
He was then asked about beingable to stay motivated in the NBA. Conley said because he knows that there are people trying to take his job, he tried to outwork all of the other NBA players. He said that having that mindset and consistency have helped him to keep his job.
When Conley was asked his least favorite player to play against, he said itis Patrick Beverley because of the nature of Patrick Beverley’s game of irritating him. However, he said he likes Beverley as a person. Garry Peyton was Conley’s favorite player growing up from the Supersonics; however, he wasn’t the same size as Payton. Therefore, he also looked up to Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson, and Toney Parker (who he modeled his game after).
Conley’s advice to students staying motivated in education or whatever it may be is to begin goal setting. He said that if you want to accomplish something, anything, you should write it down and hold yourself accountable to it and look at it every single day. He said that it can be hard to want to do what you need to do, relating his personal experience into it, but he said reminding yourself why you’re doing it can help you to get through the tough days and to be complacent.
When asked his biggest advice to student-athletes, Conley asserted time management is crucial. He said he understands that there’s a lot to do in college with school, social aspects of college, practices, how you allocate your time to recovery time, for schoolwork, and for improving your craft. He said he personally didn’t party as he would wake up early and begin working out. He would study, go to bed, work out early, and go to class as his schedule. He also advised collegiate athletes to concentrate on what their goals are and don’t cheat yourself of your potential.
Conley’s advice for having humility has come from his parents and seeing life through other peoples’ eyes. He tries to help others and help not skip anything people may be feeling.
One of Conley’s favorite moments while playing with Memphis was when the team upset the #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs as the eighth seed. Conley believes that if the team didn’t lose to a Keven Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden led Oklahoma City Thunder team, Memphis could’ve “gone all the way.”
Conley said the hardest thing he has gone through is his injuries. He broke his face which he had to replace half of it with a titanium plate and tore his achilles as some of his major injuries. He said that getting injured allowed him to reflect on his life and what’s important. He said that he sees how he took things for granted after he got injured yet saw a silver lining despite the circumstance.
Conley learned from his dad, Mike Conley Sr., who won two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal in the triple jump. Conley would watch him every day working for hours to improve his mobility. He saw how much time and work his dad put into his craft and took it into basketball. Conley said all he did was work.
A quote that Conley has kept close to his heart was, “‘He who has hope has everything.’ That’s something that has meant a lot to me and my family in a sense that no matter what we have material, or anything, like as long as you believe or have hope that you can do something or that things will get better, you have so much more than you can imagine. That keeps me grounded and keeps me focused on thing we can make stuff happen regardless of situations.”
Sophomore at UVU. Writer for the UVU review, statistician for UVU ESPN+, and play-by-play commentator for UVU Men’s Lacrosse.