Colangelo Praises 2011 Hall of Fame Class

By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: Aug. 17, 2011

Not only is Jerry Colangelo the chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he’s also a member. That's one of the primary reasons why he treasures every new round of inductees so much.

The 2011 list of inductees was a well-rounded one. It was comprised of players and coaches from all across the basketball spectrum.

“I think what stood out about this Hall of Fame class was that it reflected all aspects of basketball,” Colangelo said. “We had an African-American pioneer in the Harlem Globetrotter’s Goose Tatum, a renowned women’s coach (Tara VanDerveer), a European player (Arvydas Sabonis), a storied assistant coach (Tex Winter), former ABA player star in Artis Gilmore, a stand-out women’s player (Teresa Edwards), an NBA great from the 1960s (Tom “Satch” Sanders) and an incredibly successful small college coach (Herb Magee).”

While all of those personalities have left an indelible mark on the game, the ceremony was highlighted by the speeches of former Dream Team member Chris Mullin and NBA Champion Dennis Rodman.

“As someone that went through this process in 2004, all of the speeches can’t help but move you because you know what they’re feeling,” Colangelo said referring to his enshrinement in 2004. “What’s interesting is that what invariably comes out is that none of the inductees talk about themselves. They all talk about the people close to them that helped get them there.”

In addition to emotionally connecting with the inductees, the Suns Chairman also claims to learn something from all of their speeches.

“I thought I had known Chris Mullin well,” Colangelo said. “But I learned a great deal more about him from his speech.

“He was a player that got every ounce of talent out of his athletic ability, working his tail off to become a great player. He also overcame some personal demons in the process.”

As the person who brought the Suns into existence in 1968, watching the Naismith Hall of Fame induction ceremony is just like a trip down memory lane for Colangelo. In fact, he remembers interviewing famed assistant coach Tex Winter for the position of Suns Head Coach in 1970.

“It came down to Tex, K.C. Jones and Cotton Fitzsimmons for the job,” Colangelo recalled.

Of course, as it's well-known, Fitzsimmons went on to become second amongst all Suns head coaches on the all-time win list.

“If you’ve been around the game a while, you’ll see that many of your relationships can go back as far as 25 years,” Colangelo said.

When Colangelo was the owner of the Suns, he remembers the Suns meeting Rodman in a pre-draft workout and how long it took Sabonis to come over from Europe. When Sabonis finally arrived in the NBA, he was already 31 years old and at the tail end of his prime.

In addition, Colangelo not only saw Mullin and Sanders develop as players, but would later conduct business with them when they established careers in the front office of NBA teams. He also remembered when Gilmore made his way over from the ABA and into the NBA.

But for anyone who watched the ceremony on TV, it was clear who garnered the most attention: Dennis Rodman. Well-known for grabbing attention on the court with his play, Rodman’s off-the-court style was just as eye-catching.

“As one of the most colorful players to ever play our game, Dennis Rodman brought his lively presence to the ceremony,” Colangelo said appreciatively.

According to Colangelo - to a person - the inductees all displayed one all-encompassing characteristic. It was a characteristic that certainly registered with Colangelo.

“What came out in listening to their speeches was the amount of character that these individuals possess,” he said.

He should know. Few could speak more thoroughly on the subject than the Suns Chairman.

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