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Difficult decisions: Hiring and firing always hard for Arizona sports leaders

Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen (Matt Bertram/Arizona Sports)

Around Doug & Wolf’s Newsmakers Week, we wanted to get to know the leaders of the local Arizona sports landscape a little bit better.

We picked four off-beat questions to get a sense of their duties and leadership styles.

1. If you are recruiting or hiring someone and you have a day to sell them on Arizona beyond the workplace, where are you taking them and what are you showing them?
2. If you had the time to stop your job to learn one skill to make you better at your job or otherwise, what would that be?
3. What is the last book you read? What is it about and why did you read it?
4. What’s the toughest decision you had to make in your career? Is there anything you regret?

For our fourth and final question, here is the toughest part of the job — and a few regrets — from our Newsmakers Weeks guests.

Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen (via email)

“Parting with franchise icons like Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke. As much as it felt like the right thing for us to do from a decision-making standpoint, parting with those guys as people and taking them off the team was extremely difficult.”

ASU president Michael Crow

“I’m laughing. Get this on the tape — I’m laughing. The toughest decision, that would be like every day. It’s really when you make decisions about people’s lives and their fate. And so making choices about who’s in leadership positions is very tough, who can stay in a leadership position is very tough. And then when people are no longer able to do their jobs because they’ve let themselves down and let us down.”

Suns general manager James Jones

“The transition. Whenever you come in and you have to start a transition, a culture shift, you have to make some hard decisions, and those decisions impact people. Understanding how to communicate those things to people is something you learn but it’s always hard. If I could do it all over again, I’d just do that part better.”

Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall

“I think in our jobs, there’s so much turnover when it comes to managers and general managers — we’re thrilled right now with Mike Hazen and his team and Torey Lovullo — but I look back in the past and maybe we acted a little too quickly on some guys that were managers and ended up being really good managers, or continued to be really good managers or general managers. I’ve had other times where general managers have been such good friends of mine that I almost didn’t pull the trigger too quickly because of that relationship. I didn’t want to disappoint and I just wanted to believe in them so much that we could turn the corner and we didn’t.

“You have to remember in business, it’s sad, but it’s hire slowly, fire quickly. But when it comes to these relationships and you’re with them each and every day, it’s tough.”

ASU head football coach Herm Edwards

“It’s always tough when you have to let coaches go, because you’re tied into not only a coach but his family. There’s a lot of people affected by that. It’s always tough when you have to tell an athlete that he’s probably not going to play a lot. That’s always tough. But that’s the reality of it. But that’s a part of being a head coach. It’s not a lot of fun doing that stuff.”

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo

“I’m still bothered by a couple decisions that I made. Going back to the 2018 season, it was leaving a pitcher, leaving Zack Greinke in too long against L.A. (in a 3-2 loss on Aug. 31, 2018). He gave up a solo home run to tie it, tie a critical game down in the stretch drive, pennant race (Arizona was 74-61 but went 8-19 the rest of the season). Removing Alex Young (during a no-hit bid) last year after six innings. Those are tough decisions on me. I’ve learned from them. The Alex Young situation I probably wouldn’t change. He just could not be extended. I wasn’t going to risk injury — he was right on that threshold. He still had three more innings to go …”

Former Suns and Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo

“I’ve always said that when you’re in the world of professional sports and you’re dealing with people. When someone’s career is going to be altered like a trade, or a player being waived, that’s the most difficult thing. You’re dealing with a person, you’re not dealing with a name or a number. The personal side of the business is the most challenging. If you have any compassion at all for people and you know they have families and homes and a lot of things like that … and they’re uprooted, that’s traumatic.

“The one thing that’s certain: a player starts a career and a player ends his career. The most difficult things were a player to acknowledge at the end of his career that it’s time because most every one of them feel they have more inside of them to extend another year or two. It becomes challenging for management, coaches, etc. You have to deal with that in a very delicate way. If you’re true to what you believe in … and you really care about those people, then you do it the way you should.”

ASU athletic director and VP for university athletics Ray Anderson

“I don’t have any regrets ’cause regrets don’t do you any good. If there’s one thing I wish I would have done as part of my education is when I got my law degree, I sometimes said I wish I would have simultaneously gotten my business degree. I was fortunate enough to go to Harvard Law School, and while I was there, I had a few of my law buddies also doing the business program, and I wasn’t quite into it that deep. There were times that I reflect back and said if I had to do it over again, I’d probably stay the additional year and do the business degree.”

Cardinals GM Steve Keim

“I would say this: I’m harder on myself than probably any other fan could be. That’s been my whole career is I’ve sort of looked at all the things that I’ve done wrong and tried to grow from it versus the things maybe I did well or I had success at. I think that, again, applies to every business is the number one trait you have to have is humility and to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘I screwed up, I didn’t do a good enough job. I have to do better.'”

Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill

“There are plenty but you try to learn from those experiences and you try to make sure you’re building on those things. You’re going to make mistakes along the way.”

Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen

“I would say this: I would say that every single day I look back and say, ‘Oh, I could have done this a little different or improved.’ I wouldn’t call out like a specific thing but I would just say that I’m always looking for opportunities to improve. That’s the fun: You’re always learning, you’re always growing from your mistakes.”


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