Colangelo Shares Keys to Success in CEO Lecture Series

April 20, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

“Each of you have your own journey,” says Jerry Colangelo. “It will be influenced by the choices you make and the risks you take.”

The GCU and AZ Business Magazine CEO Lecture Series wrapped up the Spring 2011 semester with one of the most successful and well-respected executives in professional sports.

Colangelo is the current chairman of the USA Basketball Board of Directors and is well known for his success with the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Jerry Colangelo

He shared many stories and insights into his life, his work and the passion it takes to make a difference in the community.

“I’ve only ever had passion,” he says. “When you believe in something, stand up for it and don’t ever look back.”

As a young man, he says his only goal in life was to win a state championship in basketball.  

“We lost, and I knew my life was over,” he says. “But the sun came up the next day.”

He went on to play college basketball, quickly working through the ranks and finishing as the team captain. Despite his success, this was in the days when the NBA only drafted eight or nine players a year. He did not make the cut.

“Success is getting up one more time when you are down, and you will definitely go down,” he says. “If you are focused and passionate about going somewhere, you will learn what it takes to get there.

Colangelo played semi-pro basketball for $50 per game and worked for a tuxedo rental business. His passion and ability to make personal contacts connected him to like-minded people, and he found himself in the effort to bring professional basketball to Chicago.

He played a considerable part in the formation of the Chicago Bulls. His work with the Bulls gave him the opportunity to head up one of two expansion teams at the time in Milwaukee or Phoenix.

“I got on a plane in Chicago with a 20 degree wind chill and got off the plane in Phoenix to 70 degree weather and the smell of orange blossoms,” he says. “I called my wife and said pack your bags, babe. It’s Phoenix.”

With a wife, three kids and $900, the Colangelos headed to Phoenix. He guided the team to become one of the most successful franchises in the NBA, capped off in 2004 with his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame.

“Do whatever you do with a passion,” he says. “Too many people waste time whining as opportunities slip by them every day. You can change anything in your life if you want it badly enough.”

Contact Zane Ewton at zane.ewton@gcu.edu.


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