The man in charge of USA Basketball once owned the Suns and the Diamondbacks, the WNBA's Mercury, and the arena league's Rattlers. He was also responsible for bringing the NHL to Phoenix. But if you were to say something nasty to his mom, Jerry Colangelo wasn't always above behaving like some beer-soaked barfly in Sahuarita.
It's been 20 years since the Suns got to the NBA finals in their first season after trading for Charles Barkley. But that run had added significance for Colangelo. Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, he began his front-office career with the Bulls before taking over as the Suns' first GM. He later bought the team in 1987.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic's Paola Boivin, Colangelo described how his worlds collided when he and his family were in attendance for Game 4 of the finals at Chicago Stadium:
He was sitting with his son, Bryan [fired today as GM of the Raptors], when he heard a commotion behind him where his wife, Joanie, and mother were.
“What’s going on?” Colangelo asked.
“The guy behind us told your mom to shut up and sit down,” Joanie said.
Colangelo was livid and told the man to apologize. He wouldn’t. Colangelo sent his wife and mother away from the seats.
“You don’t want to do this, Mr. Colangelo,” a security guard told him.
As the game ended, the fan gave Colangelo the finger. Colangelo leaped over a row of seats and grabbed him. He got a punch in before security pulled him away.
“It’s a Chicago story,” Colangelo said, smiling.
The man who owned the seats had let someone else use them that night. He would later call Colangelo to offer an apology. The pre-internet 1990s were weird.
Photo credit: Associated Press