Jerry Colangelo (Chairman - NIASHF National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame)

Colangelo, il sogno (italo)americano inizia dal basket

Apr 12, 2013 3683 ITA ENG

Sport has always been a fundamental instrument to promote the cultural, social, economic and commercial growth of the American society. The American approach to sport has forged generations of boys and girls into the the winning character of the American society; sport has often acted as a true spokesman of American pop culture, helping to make it interesting and admired and even imitated worldwide.

The role of sport in the development of the US economy is immeasurable. One can measure the huge investments of constant modernization of infrastructure; the impact of merchandising; the business of sports rights with all the new technologies and new devices; the money that every day is spent in buying every kind of gadget that allows Americans to play sports at any age, in any place and for any physical condition, or just to root for their teams; the thousands of dollars spent on advertising and promotion in the context of any kind of sport event; the business turnover of the media that deal with this huge slice of the American economy: and these are impressive numbers. But what one just cannot quantify is how important is to teach to improve oneself skills and bet on them; to research and innovate on training techniques and field playbooks; to proudly represent the colors for which one competes; to respect the opponent. A society benefiting from these teachings develops an entrepreneurial, economic, social and financial ecosystem that has been, is and always will be number one in the world.

This happened also thanks to the efforts of many Italian Americans, who in sports have played a role not only as athletes but also as managers, commentators, investors, entrepreneurs, talent scouts: after all, the heroic deeds of the Italians in America and their constant phenomenal growth that has led them to success are the best metaphor for the beauty of sport as a key factor that levels the initial positions and then awards those who showed more commitment, talent and hard work. In the history of American sports, one of the most prestigious of these Italian Americans is Jerry Colangelo.

Mr. Colangelo, you are a true icon of the American sport. Player, coach, General Manager (the youngest in sports history, at the age of 26!), Businessman, Chairman of the NBA's Board of Governors, Chairman of the Expansion Committee that brought the NBA to Canada, and then the American Basketball Olympic Team. We feel honored to be able to ask you: why sport is so important in the American culture and what does represent for the building of the American dream?

Sports participation has been a part of our culture since the Greek Roman times and development of participation in American Sports was a continuation of those times. Professional sports became a diversion back in the late 1800's for most of the professional sports that exist today in the United States of America.  People vicariously follow their team with a passion because it brings honor, distinction and a sense of belonging to them. 

In your book, “Return of the Gold”, you share your experience as Chairman and Managing Director of the USA Men's Basketball Team: a big success realized in 2008 Olympics in Bejing when you won the gold medal. It was an enterprise to be viewed not only as a sport success, but also as a journey about how to aim high and build a winning leadership. Please tell us something about it.

The desire to win a championship is part of a culture that is set on being number one and drives individuals to accomplish goals and objectives that lead to victory. My involvement with USA Basketball offered me an opportunity to change a culture that needed changing and also to alter how the world of basketball looked upon the American game. This journey had a goal and objective which was to redeem the program that had had such great successes in the past and we were able to accomplish this objective with class and dignity.

During the XX century, the Italians who came to America have often being discriminated, and one of the main factors of pride for them was the success reached by some of their fellow Italians in America. How the several Italian champions in the American sport represented a sort of revenge of their ethnicity?

People of Italian American heritage looked with pride at the success of fellow Italian Americans who succeeded in sports and entertainment despite discrimination that exists against many ethnic groups.  Sports acts an equalizer as individuals like Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Tommy Lasorda and Rocky Marciano among many who achieved great success. 

You are also the Chairman of the National Leadership Committee of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Please tell us something more about this organization, located in Chicago's Little Italy

My experience with the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago again involves passion, pride and interest in maintaining the legacy of those in the Italian community who have achieved success in sports over generations. I believe it is important to pass on the legacy to future generation so that our heritage continues.

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