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Former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo stays optimistic

Former Phoenix sports franchise owner Jerry Colangelo does an interview The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 12, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

Former Suns owner and godfather of Phoenix sports Jerry Colangelo sees the struggles of Valley sports teams and says fans should stay the course.

From a new building deal between the Phoenix Suns and the city of Phoenix, to the Arizona Diamondbacks retooling, to the injury-plagued Arizona Coyotes’ struggles, Colangelo has not only had his hand in the creation and development of all three teams, he has actually experienced first hand the building of each franchise from the ground up.

In particular, Colangelo helped build the arena for the original professional sports franchise to Arizona, the Suns.

“The circumstances in the ’80s when we were talking about the arena, and the circumstances today, are night and day. The people have changed, the characters are different, the market is different and so you have to adjust. Just because we were able to get some things accomplished the way they were doesn’t mean you can do the same thing today,” Colangelo said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on the Doug & Wolf show.

“It’s common sense that if you’re looking to make a deal it has to be something that is good for both parties. I believe strongly in a private/public partnership. It can’t be one-sided.”

The Suns and the city of Phoenix struck a deal that was approved in a vote by the city council on Jan. 25 to renovate the stadium.

The deal will retool the arena to better fit the needs of an NBA team and provide amenities to help accommodate other events that bring revenue to the city.

Colangelo said that venues such as Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field, Gila River Arena and State Farm Stadium help put Phoneix on the proverbial global map.

“It takes a business community who understands and recognizes that there’s real value,” he said.

“I would say we’ve done extremely well when you look at the Final Four, you look at the Super Bowl, you look at the All-Star Games that have been held here. We’ve done extremely well. Could it be better? Always, and you try to improve on it.”

Colangelo staying positive despite Suns’ downturn

With the Suns having the most losses in the NBA and in the midst of a 14-game losing streak, it is easy for fans to hang their head on the team.

Amidst the struggles of the young team with a first-year head coach, Colangelo is trying to stay optimistic.

“I felt that when I sold to Robert Sarver, he had a full deck. He had really a good organization, a good team. It lasted for a few years. It’s been disruptive, I guess, for a period of time and there’s been a lot of losing, and that’s sad for fans, for me — I’m sure it doesn’t make Robert Sarver very happy either. I think people want to identify with the good ol’ days, so to speak, and winning. So invariably, even to this day, and it’s 15 years since I’ve sold, I’m stopped by people all the time. I just try to be encouraging. Hang in there, don’t drop the Suns. They’re going to turn it around,” he said.

The godfather is proud of his accomplishments in the Valley

That being said, Colangelo is happy in his retirement.

“Have I missed it, of course. Everything about the Suns has an impact on me, because how could it not?” he said.

“I think this: the fact that when I came to Arizona and when I made the decision to come, I saw a blank canvas in terms of opportunity. To have created a situation where we had four professional sports teams and that was the goal and objective that I always had, and to have been responsible for three of the four, to see us mature as a major league market, to see us accomplish the things that we did in winning and becoming a model franchise in a couple of sports during my era, I was proud of that.”

On the new NBA and blurred lines of tampering between players, agents and owners

Colangelo was directly responsible for the 2006 World Cup team that included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh who would team up and win two championships with the Miami Heat.

“They bonded, that’s the kind of thing you want on a team, so that was healthy. Was there anything wrong with them talking about coming together and playing together? I don’t think so as long as it was above board, but I think it has gotten out of (control),” Colangelo said.

Suns’ need to retain Devin Booker

His experience as a coach and executive has given Colangelo a road map for developing teams and players during a time when taking a direct approach with players was more acceptable and tampering accusations were not as rampant.

For the Suns to retain star guard Devin Booker, Colangelo thinks direct interaction is most necessary to prevent him from demanding a trade recently seen with players like Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis.

“I’ve tried to spend a little time with Booker — I have — in trying to give him some advice. If I had Booker, I’d spend a lot more time with him,” Colangelo said.

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