Despite being barely competitive, the Jazz drew well during their first five years. However, by 1979 the franchise was sinking financially. Barry Mendelson, the team’s executive vice president for most of the early years, said one factor in the financial trouble was an 11 percent amusement tax, highest in the U.S. at the time. The team also could not attract much local corporate support—an important factor even in those days—or local investors.

Battistone concluded that the franchise could not be viable in New Orleans and decided to move elsewhere. After scouting several new homes, he decided to move the team to Salt Lake City, even though it was a smaller market. Salt Lake City had previously been home to the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) from 1970 to 1976. The Stars had been extremely popular in the city and had even won an ABA title in their first season after moving from Los Angeles. However, their finances collapsed in their last two seasons, and they were shut down by the league 16 games into the 1975 – 1976 season after missing payroll. Although Salt Lake City was not known for its jazz culture, the team decided to keep the name, as well as the team’s original colors of green, purple, and gold (the colors of Mardi Gras).