This is the story of a man who has left a legacy of success in various professional sport and business ventures.
Jerry Colangelo embodies the quintessential story of a “hometown boy made good”. He grew up in a house that his grandfather constructed with wood from railroad cars. Once a gangly kid from the working-class Hungry Hills neighborhood in Chicago Heights, he often left home with a salt shaker in his pocket. When his stomach growled, he would swipe a tomato from a neighborhood garden and fix himself lunch.
Colangelo states that, because of his strong Italian roots, he has been able to overcome many obstacles. . . . “I got my foundation about hard work, commitment, family, passion and faith from these roots. It’s not if you have adversity, it’s how you deal with it when it comes.”
Among many other accomplishments, Jerry Colangelo owned the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, built two state-of-the-art sports facilities and brought Major League Baseball to Phoenix with the Arizona Diamondbacks expansion team. Additionally, he won a world championship with the Diamondbacks and returned the once-tarnished U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team to glory. As Chairman of USA Basketball, Colangelo created a team that brought home the Gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, another in the 2012 London Olympics and then again in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
After a stint with the Chicago Bulls working as marketing director, scout, and assistant to the president, Colangelo departed to accept a position with the Phoenix Suns. He arrived in Arizona in 1968 with his wife, three kids, and $300 to his name. At age 28, Colangelo became the youngest General Manager in sports history with the Phoenix Suns.
Colangelo worked hard to fulfill his dream of owning the Phoenix Suns. He stepped up and coordinated a group of investors that purchased the club for $44.5 million on October 14, 1987.
During his 40 years with the Suns, Colangelo was a hands-on leader. In his entrepreneurial role, he headed all business and basketball facets of the franchise from selling tickets to coordinating sponsorships and brokering media deals. Having served as Chairman and CEO, general manager, and head coach of the Phoenix Suns, Colangelo boasts the second longest tenure with one franchise in the NBA.
Baseball and More
Purchasing the Phoenix Suns was the first of many transactions that helped Colangelo not only stabilize the basketball organization, but also be branded as a business mogul. While in Chicago for a Suns game, Colangelo attended a Cubs baseball game. Soon after, he had a group of investors and in 1994 he bought the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise, a Major League Baseball expansion team. The Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees in a thrilling seven-game series in 2001. Colangelo delivered the first major sports Championship to the Phoenix area. Many have said it to be the best World Series of all-time. The Diamondbacks gave Colangelo what he wanted most: the achievement of becoming the fastest expansion team to win a World Series Championship.
Colangelo was also instrumental in the start-up of other teams such as the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury reached the WNBA finals, losing to the Houston Comets. Another start-up Colangelo team, the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, gave him his first Arena Football championship in 1994, and once again in 1997. Colangelo was paramount in bringing the NHL to Arizona in the form of the Winnipeg Jets, in 1997. The hockey team now plays in the suburb of Glendale as the Phoenix Coyotes.
Currently, Colangelo continues his business in real estate as a principle in JDM Partners, LLC. Colangelo also serves as the Chairman of USA Basketball as well as special assistant to the president of Grand Canyon University.