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Jerry Colangelo: Robert Sarver is a good owner

LISTEN: Jerry Colangelo, Godfather of Phoenix Sports

Throughout much of Robert Sarver’s tenure as the managing partner of the Phoenix Suns, fans have clamored for the man he replaced.

Jerry Colangelo helped build the Suns into the city’s main professional sports team, and was the owner until 2004, when he sold to a group led by Sarver.

Colangelo stayed on with the team until 2007, but since then it has been Sarver’s show, with mixed results.

However, when asked if the man who replaced him is a good owner, the “Godfather of Phoenix Sports” did not hesitate.

“I think he is, I think he is,” Colangelo told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM as part of Newsmakers Week Wednesday. “I think he’s also matured as a sports entrepreneur. It’s the kind of business that people from the outside looking in think is an easy transition, but it helps if you have a real background and if you don’t, you have to pay your dues, you have to learn by experience, and sometimes you have to make mistakes. And you learn from those mistakes.

Depending on who you ask, the number of mistakes Sarver may have made will vary, but even he has admitted that there are things he could have done better over the last decade.

“I would say to you that Robert was handed a full deck in terms of really a good team, good management, coaching, and we had a good run for a while, if you recall,” Colangelo said. “But then things started to dissipate a little bit and when you’re not stable, when you have a lot of turnover in terms of management, coaching, players, it’s unstable and it’s tough to really get any traction.

“So I think Robert went through a lot, and I think he learned a lot. I’ve heard from a number of people that I trust very much that he’s a different guy today than he was when he bought the team, and it’s all positive, all positive. And I commend what he’s done.”

It should come as no surprise that Sarver could be a different owner — a better owner — now than he was when he first took over. No matter the job, people tend to improve as they gain more experience. They learn what works and what doesn’t, and adjust their style accordingly.

As an owner, Sarver was tasked with hiring the right people to work with him in building the franchise, and it may have taken some time to learn what qualities to look for. After all, running a basketball team is nothing like running any other business, though Sarver had proven to be successful elsewhere.

And as Colangelo said, people on both a national and local level have commented on Sarver’s turnaround.

“So he deserves to get credit when credit is due,” he said. “When you make mistakes you take the hits, but when you’re successful you should also be gracious in saying the right things about a person.

“I think he has a great group in place.”