Phoenix Suns: Complete History of General Managers

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Jerry Colangelo. Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Colangelo. Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phoenix Suns were the first professional team in the Valley of the Sun, the beginning of what would be a unique and still developing sports culture in Arizona.

As the team begins their 48th season in the Valley, we will look back on the seven general managers that have developed the culture of the Suns over the years.

The team began with a young man who became a Phoenix icon, Jerry Colangelo.

He was the “Godfather” of Arizona professional sports teams, helping bring basketball, hockey, and baseball to the desert. Jerry Colangelo served as the Phoenix Suns General Manager from their creation in 1968 until 1995.

During Colangelo’s time as GM, the Suns were one of the best teams in the NBA, making the playoffs 17 times. The Suns also won three division championships, and two conference championships in 1975-1976 and 1992-1993, under the management of Colangelo.

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Jerry came to the desert from the Chicago Bulls in 1968 to manage the new NBA expansion team that was the Phoenix Suns. He was the youngest general manager in professional sports at just 29.

During his 27 seasons as General Manager, he won four NBA Executive of the Year honors, had several stints as head coach, was owner of the team from 1987 until 2004, and was an essential part in the building of America West Arena (formerly US Airways Center, now Talking Stick Resort Arena).

Though the Suns posted a great win percentage during Colangelo’s time as GM, there were several memorable mishaps and misfortunes that occurred in those 27 seasons. In 1969 Colangelo lost the coin flip to the Milwaukee Bucks that would have got the Suns the rights to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. During the 1980’s the Suns struggled, including several players being involved in a drug scandal, and center Nick Vanos dying in a plane crash in 1987.

Colangelo bought the team in the wake of the scandal and traded for Kevin Johnson. The 1988-1989 season was one of the biggest turnaround in NBA history, and began a run of 13 straight playoff appearances for the Suns. In 1995 Jerry turned over the General Manager role to his son Bryan Colangelo.

After leaving the Suns, Jerry became the director of USA Basketball in 2005 and returned to the NBA in 2015 when he was named the Chairman of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. He now serves as special adviser to the managing partner of the 76ers.

Next: Bryan Colangelo gets Nash, STAT, and Marion