Bryan Colangelo's tenure with the Phoenix Suns is finished. Now the question becomes: Will his legendary father, who has run the Suns in one form or another since the club’s birth in 1968, soon be out the door himself?
Suns owner Robert Sarver ended weeks of speculation Monday by confirming Bryan Colangelo’s departure to Toronto, where he will run the Raptors and earn a reported $3 million per season.
Colangelo, the reigning NBA executive of the year, made $1.25 million per year with the Suns, an NBA source confirmed.
Sarver, asked if he’s worried that he’ll now lose Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo, paused and said, “Yeah. That will be his decision. Any time you have a family dynamic, it makes things more difficult.”
Jerry Colangelo is under contract to be the Suns chairman and CEO until June 2007, then be a paid consultant until 2012. He was non-committal about his future, but indicated Monday he has no immediate plans to leave.
“I’ll continue to evaluate it," Jerry Colangelo said. "Robert and I will continue to have conversations in the next few days.”
Sarver said he was willing to give Bryan Colangelo a contract extension when his deal expired in the summer of 2007, but was unwilling to redo his existing contract.
“I’m sure some people will look at this and say it’s not the right thing to do," Sarver said. "I want to win a championship. But what I really want is sustainable success.
"At times, that means making tough decisions and responsible spending decisions.
“For me, it was a matter of principle. I don’t like to redo contracts. It’s not the precedent I wanted to set for this organization.” Bryan Colangelo could not be reached for comment.
Jerry Colangelo said, “Bryan was forced to make a decision fighting a lot of emotion. He grew up with this franchise.”
He said he’s sad to see his son leave town — all his children have lived locally — but that this is an outstanding opportunity for Bryan.
In purchasing the Suns for $401 million, Sarver was “taking on a family,” Colangelo said. “That was challenging in itself.”
He praised Sarver for giving his son the opportunity to continue to work as the general manager “and to let him leave when he did.”
Sarver said he will not seek compensation from the Raptors for the loss of Colangelo as the club’s president and general manager.
He also indicated he probably will not name an interim general manager now that the NBA trade deadline has passed and will divide up responsibilities among the existing staff until the summer.
David Griffin, Bryan Colangelo’s assistant, is expected to assume some of those responsibilities.
Steve Kerr, Sarver’s lead basketball adviser, said he is not interested in the general manager’s job “for the foreseeable future," preferring instead to serve as a Sarver adviser.
Colangelo will sell his small ownership stake in the team; he has owned a half-percent of the team and also has a share of the general partnership, Sarver said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni admitted being surprised by the turn of events.
“Bryan has meant everything to me. He gave me a shot. I'm here because of him," D'Antoni said. “Everybody's surprised. At the same time, hopefully, for him it's a great opportunity. I wish him all the best." Officials around the league had a similar reaction.
“I’m surprised that an executive that successful would be allowed to pursue another job,” said Mitch Kupchak, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s very unusual that he would be allowed to leave.
“I don’t know all the details, but it’s very unusual. Bryan has incredible knowledge of this league. ... But I’m sure they’ll replace Bryan with someone who’ll also be successful.”
“What makes it unique is that it happened during the season,” said Seattle Supersonics president Wally Walker. “That’s unprecedented in my memory.”
Indiana Pacers president Donnie Walsh called Toronto “a great city. It’s a great situation.”
If Jerry Colangelo also leaves, “That certainly would be a change,” Walsh said. “That’s what happens when you have new ownership. ... I’m sure Jerry recognized that when he sold the franchise.”
Sarver disputed reports that he lost his temper and told Colangelo to get out of his office when Colangelo first approached him about the Raptors’ opportunity three weeks ago.
“That was absolutely not correct. I wasn’t angry. Disappointed, but not angry,” said Sarver, who added the conversation didn’t even take place in his office.
He said his preference was not to let Colangelo talk to the Raptors, but that upon purchasing the team in 2004 and agreeing to a new contract with Colangelo, “I had told him if another deal came up, I wouldn’t stand in his way,” and that he would honor that promise.
Colangelo’s departure on Monday “had nothing to do with me wanting to change direction,” he said. “It was always my intent to work with Bryan.”
He said the two had several conversations on Monday and that, “Our relationship is fine. He invited me to the Suns game in Toronto (on March 31).”
The two also reportedly had a contentious meeting at the All-Star game in Houston Feb. 19.
In going to Toronto, Colangelo will join family friend and NBA veteran Wayne Embry, the club's interim GM. It is unclear what role Embry will now assume.
Colangelo is in the middle of his 11th season as the Suns' general manager and his seventh as Suns president. He has been with the organization for 17 seasons.
Under Colangelo’s guidance, the Suns reshaped their roster to its current level. The Suns drafted Shawn Marion and Amaré Stoudemire, disposed of the “Backcourt 2000” experiment of Jason Kidd and Penny Hardaway, and traded for Stephon Marbury. When that didn’t work, Colangelo dumped Marbury and wooed Steve Nash. The Suns went on to reach an NBA-best 62 wins last season.
Colangelo has also held positions as scout, assistant director of player personnel and assistant general manager with the team.
The team is on its way to its ninth playoff appearance in Colangelo’s tenure as GM.
Colangelo graduated from Phoenix Central High School in 1983 and Cornell University in 1987.