Since the Phoenix Sun's first season in 1968 the franchise has been a model of success with the fourth best franchise winning percentage in the NBA. The one constant during that entire period has been Jerry Colangelo - first as GM and then as the owner. Now the new ownership group is facing its first real test. How they perform will say a lot about our team for the next few decades.
Jerry Colangelo piloted the organization through stormy waters during his tenure including a painful drug scandal in the late 80's and a variety of other setbacks that any franchise will face. He proved to be a model sports team owner and earned the respect of league and the fan base. If Jerry were still running the show everyone interested in the Suns' success would be feeling a lot more comfortable right now.
But JC isn't coming back and the Sarver-lead group is facing its first real test since taking over in 2004.
The team they inherited was poised for a fantastic run. Amare and Marion had been drafted, Marbury and Penny were gone and the deal for Nash was done. Sarver stepped into a ready made situation with D'Antoni quickly earning his new boss' trust in the 2004-05 season.
Since then, its fair to say that "mistakes have been made" but for the most part they are the kind that any team will go through. A bad signing (Marcus Banks), questionable draft picks (in this case dumping picks) and a few trades that in retrospect don't make sense (KT to Seattle and James Jones to Portland). Even the horendous (in my opinion) Shaq trade was not a game changer beyond about a two-year period.
As painful as these things are, they are fairly commonplace in the world of sports team ownership. Let's not forget that less then a year ago Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupckak were the biggest morons in the game for not trading Bynum to keep Kobe happy. John Paxton is generally loved by the media but gave up on Tyson Chandler and LaMarcus Aldridge in favor of Ben Wallace and Tyrus Thomas. That's hasn't worked out so well.
The decisions facing Sarver and Kerr now transcend the typical player transactions. For the first time, the new Suns brain trust has the opportunity to completely remake the team in their image and in doing so they will send a powerful signal about the Suns franchise for many years to come.
Kerr on the radio this morning telegraphed his intention not to turn the Suns 180 degrees and seemed inclined to add a few things to what the Suns already do well. One would assume that means defense, player development and deeper bench rotations.
If Sarver and Kerr succeed in bringing in a new coach that can keep the high octane effeciency half court offense that the Suns displayed last year and add to that a bit more discipline and depth then in May 09 we maybe watching the Suns play instead of speculating on blowing up the team. If they decide on complete revamp we are in for some lean years that will test the patience of Phoenix fans.
Either way, the moves over the next few months are going to set the tone and define the relationship the Suns have with their fans for many years to come.