After the men’s national basketball team suffered a stunning loss to Argentina in the semifinals at the 2004 Olympics, many were stunned and called for a change. For a country that had dominated the sport for so long, winning a bronze medal didn’t seem right. So began the overhaul and the rebuild for the 2008 Olympics in China, with Jerry Colangelo at the helm.
Netflix’s ‘The Redeem Team’ chronicles the work that went into preparing for the 2008 games and how the men’s team, consisting of legends like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, pushed for the ultimate prize. So, if you’re wondering how influential Jerry was to this team and where he might be today, we’ve got you covered.
Where is Jerry Colangelo Today?
Jerry Colangelo grew up in Chicago Heights, Illinois, in a working-class Italian-American family. He would later say that his childhood had a lasting impact on his future life. Jerry added, “I had no relationship with my father. We never played catch. He never took me to a game. Instead, he was someone I threatened to kill because of abuse to my mother. But my sense of family, hard work, and relationships were grounded in the foundation of my early years in the neighborhood.”
After a basketball playing career in college, Jerry joined the Chicago Bulls in 1966 and served as their team chief, scout, and marketing director. He pioneered a shoe deal with Converse and popularized promotional giveaways. Regarding what makes him tick, Jerry said, “I never had a true mentor . . . but I have relied upon many people who have had substantial influences on my life.”
In 1968, when Jerry was just 28-years-old, he was named the general manager of the Phoenix Suns during their inaugural season. Jerry remained with the team until 2012, donning many hats, including head coach, president, managing general partner, CEO, and chairman. Jerry won the NBA Executive of the Year four times during his time with the team. Then, in 2005, he took control of the men’s National Team Program, marking the beginning of a wildly successful era.
When Jerry took over, the team had not won any major competitions since 2000. So, he started the rebuild in earnest, picking players and a coach without a committee’s involvement. Jerry said, “We had gotten off the course. I was unhappy about how people looked at us as players and as Americans. I wanted to change it. We definitely had to change the culture and start over again. I felt we had lost the respect of the world basketball community. The only way to earn that back was just to show respect and to go about our business.”
Jerry picked Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach at Duke University, North Carolina, to be the national team’s coach and had players like Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony play for the team. With Jerry in charge, the team won the 2008 Olympics and achieved the same feat three more times. In all, the team had won seven out of the nine FIBA or FIBA Americas competitions, compiling a dominant 104-7 overall record.
Jerry’s success extended to other sports as well; he brought Major League Baseball to Arizona in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team won the World Series just a few years later, in 2001, stunning the defending champions, the New York Yankees. In 2015, Jerry was appointed the Chairman of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. While he stepped away from the role soon after, he remained as special advisor to the team’s owner.
Jerry has been inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a board member of several organizations and has written two books. On the personal front, Jerry has been married to Joan since 1961; they met on a blind date. The couple has four children and ten grandchildren. Jerry is a principal partner of JDM Partners LLC, a real estate development company based out of Phoenix, Arizona.
At 82, Jerry is still active and participates in charitable golf events, among other things, even after selling the Suns and controlling interest in the Diamondbacks. He said, “I’ve been blessed with good health. I’ve had some things along the way, like everyone else. Beat prostate cancer and a few other things, but today, I’m very healthy, and I have a lot of energy. My attitude has always been I’ll go as long as I can and as hard as I can until I can’t.” Furthermore, an annual basketball showcase for college students is named after him.
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