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. A press conference is scheduled Tuesday in Toronto to announce the hiring.
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 noncommittal Monday about his future, but indicated 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 current 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, but he is believed to be intrigued by the idea of calling his own shots and not having to seek approval on routine matters, as appeared to be the case with the Suns recently.
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 — where all his children have lived — 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.”
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.
Bryan Colangelo will sell his small ownership stake in the team; he has owned a half-percent of the team and 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.”
Speaking candidly for the first time in weeks, 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.
The two also reportedly had a contentious meeting at the All-Star game in Houston Feb. 19.
Sarver 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).”
In 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.