Because of Colangelo's business acumen—he likes to refer to the Suns as "the product"—he has become a renowned survivor. Early on, the GM began firing coaches and taking the reins himself. Big talents with bigger temperaments betrayed him. Once fifth in the NBA in gate receipts, the Suns dropped to 16th.
Bad apples were exchanged for nameless Suns who rose faceless, unselfish, in the West. Tonight before a record 13,192 they face the Seattle SuperSonics, for a chance to advance to the division finals.
As Colangelo flies home, Paul Westphal plans the menu for a victory party. Ricky Sobers sees One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Alvan Adams wolfs down "my usual steak and good old asparagus." Garfield Heard listens to jazz. Starters now, these men were nowhere near Phoenix last season. Dick Van Arsdale was. The very first expansion Sun, Dick sits at home with his twin brother Tom. He says he "hasn't been this excited since high school."
The Phoenix coach, John MacLeod, hits golf balls. It is about the only time MacLeod is out of a suit. Not a leisure suit like Glen Campbell and those other polyester turkeys wear. A real suit. Glen plaids, pinstripes. Vested suits, for heaven's sake. Carol MacLeod says her husband looks "classy" in suits.
The Suns look even classier in the game. Westphal, Sobers and the long-lost UCLA volleyballer, Keith Erickson, combine to make 26 of 38 shots. Seven Suns score in double figures. Phoenix romps 123-112.
While it is still a contest, Colangelo yells at Referee Jake O'Donnell. The official stares him down. Colangelo stares right back. Then MacLeod walks down the sidelines and shouts at his boss, "Jerry, come on. Settle down. Shut up."
Later the two laugh about the incident. Two years ago as a rookie coach, MacLeod lost 18 straight on the road for Colangelo. Now he instructs him in how to act during playoffs. Classy.
There is blood on the ABA tracks. In the NBA they only talk nasty, but in the younger league they put up their dukes. The Kentucky-Denver matchup, tied 3-3, has burst into fire and ice.
Hubie Brown, coach of the defending champion Colonels, and Larry Brown, leader of the heir-apparent Nuggets, are at swords' points, sarcastically referring to one another as "that genius."