Owners of professional sports teams in the United States cover a gamut of personalities. There is the outspoken Jerry Jones whose opinions are generally restricted to the NFL and his Dallas Cowboys. Then there is Mark Cuban, who is similarly outspoken but he ventures into the broader world of politics, at times hinting he will run for political office. And then there is the owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver, who has carved out a local reputation for himself as an owner whose primary goal seems to be in ruining one of the more popular NBA franchises. Before becoming too judgmental on the matter, it is useful to look at some of the things that are not so commonly known except to those who follow Sarver’s every move. At the very least, these 10 things will serve as reminders as to what Suns fans have to deal with on a regular basis.
1. Hired Steve Kerr as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns
Steve Kerr, now the coach of the NBA championship Golden State Warriors, had been Sarver’s choice back in the early 2000’s to run the team. Kerr came with an impressive NBA pedigree, having won championships with the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s and one with the San Antonio Spurs as a player. He learned the business of basketball under Chicago’s head coach Phil Jackson and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. This decision by Sarver seemed sane and would get the Suns on the winning track.
2. Sarver would ask Kerr only a few years later to take a pay cut
That pay cut was reported to have been 10 percent, though upon moving on from his general manager position said it was mostly personal. This ends up being more about Robert Sarver than Kerr. Sarver reportedly had limited what Kerr could do because he was either very cheap or very profit oriented. Whatever the motive, Sarver’s Suns have sunk to the bottom of the NBA since then, while Kerr moved on to be one of the most successful coaches in NBA history.
3. He continues to raise the ire of the Suns fan base
His latest outrage is that he is considering moving the team to either Las Vegas or Seattle. Now it’s one thing if those rumors started prior to the beginning of the season or after a horrendous season – which the team had. But the news broke right in the middle of the holiday season, and the NBA regular season. Whether it is arrogance or apathy, the Phoenix fans are not very happy about Sarver’s antics, whether he moves the team or not.
4. The purchase price Sarver made back in 1992 to buy the Suns was $400 million
That may not sound like a lot in 2019, but 25 years ago it was a considerable financial risk. Forbes magazine placed the current value of the franchise at an estimated $1.28 billion. That puts the team’s value in the middle of the pack of all NBA teams, yet its value is greater than the historic Detroit Pistons and the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder. Your view of whether Sarver is financially savvy or just a greedy millionaire depends on which court you happen to be on.
5. His net worth is an estimated $400 million
That number is according to numerous sources, which is equal to the amount he paid for the team in 2004. He also owns the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, so that ownership might be putting a bit of a drag on his total net worth. He has proven he is committed to professional basketball, but do the losses outweigh the benefits?
6. Former Suns players have implied Sarver is almost maniacal
Some team owners such as Jerry Jones get very up close and personal with the management of their team. Sarver has often crossed that line, according to more than a few former players. When you go into your team’s locker room and tell professional players how to play and professional coaches how to coach, you will likely give other people the perception that you are maniacal.
7. Robert Sarver’s unique personality and micromanagement of his teams are catching up with him
Since former general manager Steve Kerr left in the team in 2010, the Phoenix Suns have not made the NBA playoffs. The franchise is now seen more often as a contender for the number 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery than a team headed to the NBA Finals. Despite the reality, Sarver hangs on to his stubborn and unsuccessful approach to professional players and teams. If you see him as anything else but this, you are delusional.
8. After a game, Sarver stopped to have a chat with an average fan who offered to buy the team for $100
Of course, this was an irate fan who was tired of seeing his team managed so poorly. The gist of the conversation was that Sarver beat down the fan by comparing his net worth to the fan. This was one of the times Sarver tacitly admitted he was likely the most hated man in the city of Phoenix. This interaction didn’t help that perception.
9. He has met Greta Rogers in person
If you are not a Suns fan or someone who doesn’t follow social media, the name Greta Rogers will seem ordinary. But Greta is a Suns fan who is into her Golden Years and spoke at a Phoenix City Council meeting when Sarver was looking for $150 million to help renovate the Suns home stadium. Her outrage was captured on video and went viral, with the famous “He’s so tight he squeaks when he walks” quote.
10. Greasing the palms of local politicians is apparently part of his long term game plan
That meeting that sought $150 million to renovate the Suns stadium was approved. It was reported after Sarver got the requested funding that he paid Councilwoman Vania Guevara $50,000 as a political contribution and $100,000 to a firefighter PAC supporting Councilman Daniel Valenzuela.
Draw your own conclusions about the future location of the Phoenix Suns, but it looks as though Robert Sarver is here to stay.