Jerry Colangelo (born November 20, 1939) is an American businessman and sports executive who currently serves as an advisor to the Philadelphia 76ers. He formerly owned the Phoenix Suns of the NBA, the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, the Arizona Sandsharks of the Continental Indoor Soccer League, the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League and the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball. He was also instrumental in the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL to Phoenix to become the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes). In 2014, Grand Canyon University renamed its Christian based school of business after Jerry Colangelo, replacing Ken Blanchard’s name sake.
Colangelo began his career in professional basketball with the Chicago Bulls. He worked as a marketing director, scout, and assistant to the president of the team. In 1968, he left the Bulls and was hired as the first general manager of the expansion team, the Phoenix Suns. He was the youngest general manager in professional sports. When he and his family left for Arizona, he had $200 in his wallet.
Colangelo got off to an unlucky start, losing a 1969 coin flip to the Milwaukee Bucks for the rights to UCLA phenom Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The Suns were competitive most of the 1970s, making it to the NBA Finals in 1976, but losing to the Boston Celtics in six games. Colangelo had two stints as head coach during that decade, compiling a record of 59 wins and 60 losses.
During much of the 1980s, Colangelo’s Suns faced trouble. Some players, including 1976 NBA Finals player Garfield Heard, were involved in an infamous drug scandal, young center Nick Vanos died in a 1987 plane crash, and, from 1985 through 1988, the Suns failed to qualify for the playoffs. Colangelo put together a group that bought the Suns in late 1987, in the wake of the drug scandal. He subsequently made a trade for Kevin Johnson in 1987.
The Suns made one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history in 1988–89, nearly doubling their win total (from 28 wins to 55) and making the first of 13 straight playoff appearances. In 1989, Colangelo was an essential part of the group that planned to build America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena), providing financial backing. In 1992, Colangelo traded Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang to the Philadelphia 76ers for Charles Barkley. The trade proved to be productive for the Suns, and they reached the NBA Finals for the second time in 1993, this time losing to the Bulls in six games. Barkley’s relationship with Colangelo, however, grew sour over the years, and in 1996, he was traded to the Houston Rockets.
He became the youngest general manager in professional sports in 1968 after being hired as general manager for the Phoenix Suns. He has the second longest tenure running the same NBA franchise, exceeded only by Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics.
In the summer of 2005, Colangelo was named director of USA Basketball whose team represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 FIBA World Championship. Since 2009, he has served as Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Colangelo also serves as Chairman of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), a nonprofit nonpartisan educational foundation that promotes Italian American culture and heritage.
Career highlights and awards
2× Big Ten honorable mention (1961, 1962)
Number 23 Honored at Illinois
Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame
Executive of the Year (1977, 1982, 1990, 1994)
Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor (2008)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Managing Director for United States
men’s national basketball team
FIBA World Championship
Gold medal – first place 2010 Turkey Team
Gold medal – first place 2014 Spain Team
Bronze medal – third place 2006 Japan Team
FIBA Americas Championship
Gold medal – first place 2007 Las Vegas Team