http://www.usatoday.com/story/sport...rt-sarver-phoenix-gm-coaching-search/2147713/Bad owners are like unruly dogs. They are capable of raiding the pantry and scampering away without shame.
But some can be trained. Some change their ways. Some save their legacy before it's too late.
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver wouldn't be the first.
It happened to Art Modell, who won a Super Bowl after fleeing the city of Cleveland. It happened to Bill Bidwill, whose Cardinals were once the scourge of the NFL. It's happening to Donald Sterling, owner of the resurgent Los Angeles Clippers.
And if new general manager Ryan McDonough lives up to rock-star billing in Phoenix, it could happen for the Suns' oft-criticized majority owner.
"I'm definitely a better owner today than I was nine years ago, even two, three years ago," Sarver said. "I'm realistic enough and honest enough to accept the fact that I need to learn and evolve.
"There are times in the past when we've used salary cap space wisely. But a lot of the times when we haven't used cap space wisely happened when I was involved in the process."
Look, there's no need to debate or rehash Sarver's rocky history with Suns fans. It's part of our landscape. Few sports figures in the Valley elicit such negative feelings.
The national portrait can be even more unflattering. Recently, ESPN's Bill Simmons attacked Sarver on a variety of points. He said Sarver is the owner that Commissioner David Stern would love most to depose. Simmons said Phoenix is "a valuable market with great fans — the current owner has destroyed basketball there."
He also claimed the Suns could sell for over $600 million, taking great offense that an ownership group could run a franchise into the ground and walk with a $200 million profit.
That's heavy stuff considering the source: a high-profile voice covering the league for ESPN, which is in business with the NBA.
At his core, Sarver knows how to make money. That's his game. Globalization of the NBA has only just begun, and the valuation of the Suns could surpass $1 billion in the foreseeable future. Only a sucker sells now.
But he's also a competitor. Cashing out before fixing the current mess would make his legacy a net loss, and that would be tough for him to swallow.
"Absolutely not for sale at any price," Sarver said of the Suns. "That's the same position I've had for nine years."
Some say Sarver is extremely misunderstood, stuck inside a terrible caricature. He isn't a bad guy or a bad owner. He just says awkward things. He makes some people uncomfortable.
When Lon Babby first arrived as team president, he advised Sarver to act more presidential and dignified, like Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Sarver laughed, adding that he could only change so much.
But Sarver has changed. He is trying. He's receded to the background, admitting to petulant mistakes of his past. He's rewired the business culture to his liking, filling the organization with talented young people. And he seems realistic about his team's plight, assembling a cache of upcoming draft picks.
He just needs someone who can find the right basketball players, the most important ingredient of all.
Maybe McDonough is that guy. He seems like a smart hire. He comes with a strong reputation as a talent evaluator. His father was a great reporter, passing down valuable skills.
After all, the best general managers gather the best information, and somehow, they always know what the other guys are doing.
"In this business, how you do on the court blurs everything else," Sarver said. "The reality is, we'll have to draft really well the next couple of years and be smart with who and when we use our cap space. That's going to be Ryan's job to figure out."
Since buying the team in 2004, Sarver has seen many peaks and valleys. Things could've been different if the Warriors didn't renege on a trade that would've brought Stephen Curry to Phoenix, or if former General Manager Steve Kerr had convinced Mike D'Antoni to hire Tom Thibodeau as his ace defensive coach.
Along the way, there have been a lot of bad decisions and a lot of bad luck. But it's never too late for an owner to change his reputation, and it appears the team is on the right path to recovery. Either way, Simmons is wrong about one thing:
The Suns are our original professional franchise, with memories, roots and moments that last forever. And no one has the power to destroy basketball in Phoenix.