PHOENIX -- Jerry Colangelo has been an owner of the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Mercury. He has been an owner of indoor soccer and football teams, was executive director of USA Basketball and has been chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 2009.
In recent years, the successful businessman has become involved with Grand Canyon University, first by building the business school that now bears his name then by guiding the basketball program into Division I.
For his contributions to the school and beyond, Grand Canyon has created the Jerry Colangelo Museum, a celebration of his successful and charitable life. The museum opened this week inside the school's on-campus basketball practice facility.
"Jerry has meant so much to the city of Phoenix, the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest, and where is that legacy going to be remembered?" Grand Canyon president Brian Mueller said. "He sold the Suns, he sold the Diamondbacks, and he's already made a huge impact here. For us to have museum here, right in the front of campus, right next to the arena, we believe is going to interest a lot of people."
Colangelo first became involved with Grand Canyon by agreeing to Mueller's request to join the board of directors of the small Christian school. He later lent his name to the Colangelo College of Business, helped the school hire former Suns player Dan Majerle to coach the basketball team and oversaw the Antelopes' four-year rise to Division I basketball.
The school's values were a perfect fit for Colangelo, a proud Christian with a long history of good works in the community.
"When people say they want to build a museum in your honor, it's a little daunting and you wonder how that might come about, what it would look like and how it would feel," Colangelo said. "The GCU people have done such a tremendous job of piecing my history together in a chronological way, it's going to tell a story, and many of the exhibits are going to be the highlights of my career, my life, basically. I feel humbled by the fact that I will be able to share this with whoever comes through the museum."
The 2,200-square-foot Jerry Colangelo Museum serves as a timeline of a life that began in a working-class Chicago suburb.
The first wall highlights Colangelo's early years, from his days in Chicago Heights to playing baseball and basketball at Illinois to his time with the Chicago Bulls that culminated with a run as team president.
The walls hit each of Colangelo's stops in the sports world, with collages and descriptions highlighting his successful stops with the Suns, the Diamondbacks and USA Basketball. Those wrap around a series of glass cases that include a replica of the Diamondbacks' World Series trophy and another trophy designed to commemorate the four NBA Executive of the Year Awards he accumulated.
There is also a section that highlights his contributions to Grand Canyon and Christian beliefs.
"He's done so many things, we just want to do something to honor him, his legacy and educate everyone else about what he's done," said Randy Gibb, dean of the Colangelo College of Business. "When I talk to parents, they know about USA Basketball and LeBron and those guys, but do they know all the way back to the start of the Chicago Bulls? That's kind of the story we wanted to share is his involvement and how he's touched so many aspects."