Richard Bloch, one of the people most responsible for bringing the NBA to the Valley of the Sun, passed away Saturday. He was 89 years old.
Bloch is credited as being a catalyst for the formation of the Suns' primary ownership group. He became the president and controlling partner of the Suns in 1968, their first year of existence in the NBA. Under Bloch, Jerry Colangelo, who went on to become the team's majority owner, was named the Suns' first general manager.
"He meant everything. He was the individual who had enough faith and confidence in me as a very young guy in professional sports to hire me," Colangelo told ABC15. "So, I’ve always felt like I’ve owed so much to him for giving me that opportunity. He was a dear friend, a business partner, and I’ll always be indebted. We lost a very fine man in Richard Bloch."
Colangelo, who was 28 years old when he was hired as the team's first GM, said the Phoenix Suns never would have existed without Richard Bloch. He said Bloch, along with fellow co-founders Donald Pitt and Donald Diamond, won big by taking a gamble on pro basketball in the desert.
"It was a longshot at the time. But they got it, and the one thing that they did -- and this was really a key, I believe -- they gave me an awful lot of autonomy to do what was required. None of them had experience in pro sports, and they wanted someone — although my experience was limited, I was a full-time guy, and they just let me run."
"And so, I learned in the trenches, on the job, as the youngest GM in sports at the time, because he had enough confidence in me to make it happen."
Bloch received a Bachelor's degree from The University of Chicago and attended graduate school at The University of Arizona. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and went on to become a real estate developer, a TV station manager in Tucson and chairman of the NBA's Board of Governors.
“Richard was a key person in the development of the NBA, former NBA commissioner David Stern told NBA.com. “He was a source of knowledge and sometimes comfort and sometimes just plain laughter because he had a wonderful sense of humor. He was very much a mentor to me when I became commissioner. I can’t say how much he meant to me as a businessman and as a friend and how I mourn his death.”