PHOENIX – It was 10 a.m. on a archetypal balmy May morning, and Jerry Colangelo cruised bottomward North Central Avenue in his all-black Mercedes-Benz with brave windows.
He’s alert to aside music by Frank Sinatra on the Siriusly Sinatra SiriusXM Radio channel.
“I consistently accept Sinatra on,” Colangelo said. “The Italian adjacency [near] Chicago I’m from, the two big names way aback were Frank Sinatra and [former New York Yankees legend] Joe DiMaggio. I eventually met both of them.”
A few months afore he anesthetized abroad at the age of 84 in 1999, DiMaggio told Colangelo that he was appreciative of him.
That’s because the Colangelo ancestors is perceived to be NBA royalty. Jerry Colangelo started the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns franchises and the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major Alliance Baseball, and is the face of USA basketball.
If he’s the asperse or king, his son Bryan Colangelo is the prince. The 76ers new admiral is acclaimed for his acid bend cerebration and advancing agenda moves. He was aforetime accepted administrator of the Suns and Toronto Raptors in the NBA. Jerry, 76, and Bryan, 51, are movers and shakers in the NBA.
Their appreciative Italian-American roots are agnate to what a archetypal burghal guy from Philly would appreciate.
The Sixers adviser came a continued way from actuality that kid who aggregate a bedchamber with his sister, Rosemary, in a makeshift home in the Hungry Hill area of Chicago Heights, Ill.
As he angry his Mercedes assimilate East Jefferson Street, Colangelo told the adventure of his family. His grandparents, Giovanni and Rosina Colangelo, immigrated to the United States at the about-face of the 20th aeon from the apple of Monteleone di Puglia, east of Naples in southern Italy.
Chicago Heights was an immigrant-filled, poor, banal neighborhood. Bodies either formed in the animate comminute or the bolt factory.
Around 1920, Giovanni congenital a baby two-story home beyond the artery from railroad tracks. His primary architecture actual was barge from two railroad boxcars. The abode had a kitchen, active room, and a bedchamber on the capital floor. There were two bedrooms upstairs.
That was the home Jerry grew up in. His grandparents and an aunt and uncle lived downstairs. His parents, Larry and Sue Colangelo, slept in one of the admiral rooms. Jerry and Rosemary were in the added allowance until they grew earlier and Giovanni congenital a affiliate to accord the two some privacy. But as he grew to 6-foot-3, Jerry’s anxiety ashore out on his sister’s side.
“Looking out as a kid, I acclimated to admiration how do you get on the added ancillary of the tracks,” Colangelo said. “I acclimated to anticipate that way.”
When Bryan was 11 years old, Jerry was already a acknowledged accepted administrator for the Suns.
In his mind, it was time to appearance Bryan an up-close attending at his boxy accomplishments in Chicago Heights. Colangelo showed Bryan aggregate from the alleys, to the playgrounds, to the baseball fields and streets he afraid out on.
Around midnight, they ventured alfresco Bloom Aerial School, area Jerry was a basketball and baseball standout afore accepting a basketball scholarship to comedy at Kansas. Afterwards one semester, he transferred to Illinois afterwards acquirements that abettor Wilt Chamberlin was abrogation the school.
While a apprentice at Bloom, Colangelo was admired as one of the nation’s top guards. He had 66 scholarship offers for basketball. A lefthander in baseball, he was the ace of a Bloom casting agents that included Jim Bouton, who pitched for the Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Houston Astros, and Atlanta Braves.
While attractive through a bottle window, Bryan saw a account of his ancestor on a aerial academy wall.
“And he said to me, ‘Dad, I appetite to do what you did,’ ” Jerry recalled. “I appetite to go to academy here.”
That absolutely affected Jerry. But he told Bryan that he had to alive his own life.
Bryan’s adolescence in Phoenix wasn’t one of active in flush suburbs or accepting a private-school education. Jerry and his wife, Joan, aloft their accouchement in the city. The brace still lives there.
Bryan didn’t go to celebrated Brophy Academy Preparatory academy as best kids who had parents of the Colangelos’ ability did. Instead, he went abutting aperture to Central Aerial School.
He abounding Cornell University, area he was a seldom-used assets bouncer on the basketball team. Afterwards college, Bryan confused to New York to assignment in absolute estate. He did some beforehand aloof for the Suns aback opposing teams faced the Knicks. But that was it for basketball at the time.
“Then I got a alarm from Cotton Fitzsimmons and he said he bare some help,” Bryan Colangelo said. “He was the arch drillmaster and administrator of amateur cadre of the Suns.”
So Colangelo confused aback to Arizona in 1991. By that time, his ancestor was the buyer of the team.
Bryan had to prove himself. He was accomplished with that. He didn’t appetite to be singled out as the owner’s son. So he chock-full acclamation Jerry as dad. Alike today, Bryan calls him Jerry or JC.
“I didn’t appetite to be in a bearings area I referred to him as dad,” Bryan said. “I aloof didn’t feel like it was professional. It ability accept been alike a little bit awkward initially for people. But I anticipate they came to account it.”
Folks in the alignment additionally bound abstruse to account his work.
In accession to a baby role with the Suns, he was admiral of the Phoenix Arena Sports from June 1991 to June 2002. PAS ran the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football Alliance and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, teams his ancestor owned.
Bryan’s 16-hour assignment canicule played off. He was called AFL Executive of the year in 1993. The Rattlers won alliance titles in 1994 and 1997. Meanwhile, the Mercury accomplished the WNBA Finals in 1998.
“He could not accept had a bigger arrangement to body these absolutely acknowledged another franchises,” said Seth Sulka, a above accepted administrator of the Mercury. “There was no, ‘He came in from Day 1 and got to do annihilation with the Suns.’
“I sat in the aback appointment with him. He started at the bottom.”
Bryan formed adamantine to ascend up the ladder in his profession. His assignment belief mirrors his father’s.
“I was with the Suns aback Bryan was with the Suns. So I anticipate he’s activity to do a abundant job in Philadelphia,” said Grand Canyon University drillmaster Dan Majerle, who played for and was after a Suns abettor coach. “He’s actual smart, knows what he is doing.
“Anytime there’s a Colangelo involved, I’m all in. So I anticipate it was abundant move for Philadelphia.”
The Colangelo banner is absolutely arresting in Phoenix.
Cruising on North 34th Street, Colangelo drives accomplished the Jerry Colangelo Branch of the Boys and Girls Club. Over at Grand Canyon, there’s the Colangelo Academy of Business complete with a Jerry Colangelo room. His adventures ‘HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME’ is appropriate account in a brace of classes. And he’s additionally a adviser to the academy that’s activity to accept a Colangelo building in the basketball convenance ability the academy is set to build.
One of the fastest growing universities in the country, Grand Canyon had 600 acceptance six years ago. It will accept 17,500 in the fall. Colangelo has assisted in the school’s able-bodied alteration from Division II to Division I. He assassin Majerle to drillmaster the team. It accomplished 27-7 this accomplished season.
After he rode his Mercedes accomplished one bounded State Farm Insurance bureau here, one wondered if Colangelo was the landlord. He created JDM Partners with David Eaton and Mel Shultz about 35 years ago. They’re the better freeholder for State Farm’s backdrop in the country. They’re one of the country’s better landowners.
It’s accessible to see why DiMiggio was proud.
Published: June 19, 2016 — 6:03 PM EDT The Philadelphia Inquirer
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