Updated: Apr 5
By: Tarrian Rodgers
Barely a decade removed from an upbeat “Seven Seconds or Less” team that thrilled both casual fans and basketball junkies, the Suns are now a somber, poorly run franchise and that is all thanks to one man: owner Robert Sarver. I would wager that any person dealing with the Phoenix Suns organization over the years has a negative Sarver story. It isn’t because he is a bad person. Sarver is an owner who micro-manages everything. I compare him to a cook who likes to be in the kitchen, yet thinks his microwaved spam tastes like Filet Mignon.
Listening to former players and coaches recant stores of their owner, it’s easy to understand why the Suns have lost 59, 58 and 61 games over the past three years. Many former players, now ESPN analysts, have told similar stories of Sarver barging into the locker room following losses to instruct big men on how to set better screens. A former Suns Assistant Coach reported to ESPN that Sarver marched into the locker room during the head coach’s halftime speech and insisted the team run a trap at an opposing point guard who had abused the Suns' defense.
If reputation means anything Robert Sarver is on your short list for being one of the worst owners in sports. Matt Barnes, a former Suns player went on social media to speak negatively about his former boss after Sarver fired head coach Igor Kokoskov after one year. Barnes said, “Coaching isn’t the problem w the @Suns the owner is! Sarver is the worst owner in the NBA. Do that great city of phnx a solid & sell the team, they deserve a winner! You’re wasting Devin Bookers career.”
Barnes and Sarver haven’t had the best relationship over the years, of course. Barnes was once fined $20,000 for flipping off a fan. However, what Barnes would later reveal is he gave that one finger salute to his owner for telling him how to play a sport he has never played before.
Sarver’s relationship with Barnes is just one example of why the Suns are a bad organization now. The Suns’ downfall can fairly be put on Sarver because he got away from his initial plan of what made the team so successful. That plan was simple STAY OUT THE WAY. Sarver bought the team in 2014 from NBA legend Jerry Colangelo of USA basketball fame. The team was a readymade bed of roses. Colangelo’s son Bryan who is a two-time NBA Executive of the Year was the general manager. Brian made several great acquisitions, such as Steve Nash, who later won multiple MVPs by engineering an innovative offense.
Sarver began his ill-advised interventions when Colangelo asked for an extension. Sarver tendered Colangelo a lowball offer. Instead, Colangelo took his talents to Toronto, which prompted Sarver to hire Steve Kerr in the same G.M. role. Kerr, who had a different philosophy than Colangelo, found success as well, leading the Suns to a Western Conference Final en route to winning an Executive of the Year in his own right. When it came to Kerr getting his extension, again Sarver offered a lowball offer, which prompted Kerr to temporarily retire and go into the booth before coaching the Warriors dynasty.
Icing on the cake, after a legacy of losing seasons following the departures of Kerr and Colanagelo, Sarver believes he has the capital to threaten the Phoenix City Council which is considering $230 million in renovations to the building currently occupied by the Suns. Sarver has privately threatened to move the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if he doesn’t get his improvements. Problem is that it’s difficult for Sarver to get that kind of money because fans aren’t going to Suns’ games. The 2018-2019 season brought dismal game attendance. Tickets were selling on Stubhub for $8. A video surfaced of a fan yelling at Sarver to sell the team and Sarver’s response was “How much would you buy it for? If I did sell it you couldn’t afford to buy it.” The story of the Suns demise is simple: Robert Sarver.
The sad reality is that there is no short-term fix for Phoenix’s hate affair with its owner.