Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver Not Fit to Own NBA Franchise

Juan SarinasContributor IJune 18, 2010

PHOENIX - MAY 18:  Owner Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns reacts as his team plays the Dallas Mavericks in Game five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2005 NBA Playoffs at America West Arena on May 18, 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns won 114-108 to take a three games to two lead in the series. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It's amazing how many bad owners there have been in the history of Phoenix sports.

We all know about Bill Bidwell's failures with the Arizona Cardinals in the 1990s (though to his credit, he has backed off and let his son Michael and GM Rod Graves run the show recently, leading to the franchise's recent success).

We can all attribute the Arizona Diamondbacks' failures to majority owner Ken Kendrick, who has undoubtedly failed miserably running the franchise after effectively forcing former owner Jerry Colangelo go.

The Coyotes' future in Arizona is messy and bleak thanks to bad ownership groups in the past.

However, it seems as if current Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is joining the Phoenix sports' Hall of Shame, for it is becoming painfully clear that he is not fit of owning an NBA franchise.

Two times Sarver has delivered blunders after promising Suns playoff runs, seasons that gave hope to fans of the title-starved franchise but ultimately led to a messier future.

We all remember the 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns, who won 62 games and reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. That was in essence the perfect team to own. The Suns were young enough to remain competitive in the league for the next five or so years, and only needed minor changes to bring hope for the following season.

At that point, they pretty much had perfect harmony among the team, the coaching staff and the front office.

Yet Sarver decided to mess it all up.

First, Sarver effectively forced out general manager Bryan Colangelo, who was essentially the mastermind of the franchise's renaissance. He hired D'Antoni and convinced Steve Nash to join the Suns and lead the team. He was the last link to the past of the Suns, under his father Jerry Colangelo, and the present and future under Sarver.

However, Sarver's insistence that Colangelo take a significant pay cut damaged the relationship between the two and ultimately drove Colangelo out of town to Toronto early in the following season.

In response, Sarver gave the general manager position to Mike D'Antoni, who obviously did not flourish under wearing both the coach and GM hats. D'Antoni gave out ridiculous contracts to both Boris Diaw and Marcus Banks, who got $45 million and $21 million respectively.

It appeared Sarver trusted D'Antoni enough to not even look into those deals and veto them, but he instead let them take place and in essence killed any chance of the Phoenix Suns winning a championship.

A similar situation took place after this season, when a surprising Suns team made the Western Conference Finals, forcing the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers to six games.

The team's sudden surge was in large part thanks to GM Steve Kerr, who ironically was under fire from Suns fans for hiring Terry Porter as head coach the previous season. However, Kerr largely made up for that gaffe, firing Porter in the middle of that season and giving long-time assistant Alvin Gentry the head coaching position, a move that clearly flourished.

Also, Kerr instigated the deals that brought Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to Phoenix in a trade which sent former D'Antoni favorites Raja Bell and Diaw to Charlotte. He also drafted both Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez, players that had key roles for the Suns this season.

Kerr in a large way restored hope to fans in Phoenix. It appeared he was willing to negotiate a long-term deal to keep Stoudemire in Phoenix, while negotiating his own extension (his contract would run out later this month). Despite a rough start as Phoenix's GM, he ultimately ended up being one of the NBA's brighter minds.

However, it all ended this week when Kerr decided to step down and not return to the organization after his contract ran out.

Kerr has stated it was for family reasons. However, considering that he negotiated his extension and is not one that passes up on championship opportunties (after all, he won titles with the Bulls and Spurs), that seems way too fishy.

Reports have come out that Sarver asked Kerr to take a pay cut in the midst of helping take the Suns back to the forefront of the NBA, which is a total insult to what Kerr accomplished during his time with the Suns.

Would you really think that a guy who essentially saved his career with key moves that drove the Suns to within two wins of the finals would take a pay cut?

It was a horrible way to start off this offseason, which will also likely see Amar'e Stoudemire leave thanks to the sudden sinking of any momentum from that Western Conference Finals run, and it is all thanks to Sarver getting too involved in the team's basketball operations.

Now, there are owners who succeed playing a key role in the team's sporting directions.  Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban come to mind. It takes a passion to win a championship, and the willingness to overpay at times and make maverick deals to be a successful owner.

Sarver just doesn't have that.

Sure, Sarver may be the most passionate guy in what usually is a quiet courtside row at Suns games, but he truly is not a person one would trust to make basketball decisions.

Sarver's insistence to be cheap has effectively killed off any realistic chance of the Phoenix Suns winning a championship, and it is painfully clear that Sarver probably needs to step back, or even maybe considering selling the team. Professional basketball is not a business where breaking even or profiting is enough. Winning is the priority, and it is painfully clear that Sarver unfortunately does not understand that.


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