Newsmakers Week 2021 is upon us once again.
A full slate of Valley sports figures joined Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Tuesday, from ASU’s Bobby Hurley and Herm Edwards to the Phoenix Suns’ James Jones and Jason Rowley, to name a few.
Here are some of the best quotes of day one:
James Jones, Phoenix Suns general manager
Jones discussed at-length the state of the NBA’s Western Conference, with the Suns gaining little ground of-late against their regional rivals.
“When you look at the Western Conference, as good as we’ve been playing, we haven’t gained any ground, but I think we continue to develop this culture of discipline that’s going to carry us when we get to the playoffs,” Jones said.
“Because you can win the regular season, but if you’re not building the habits that allow to have success in the postseason, you’re going to be left with a sinking feeling in your stomach when the season’s over.”
Jones also discussed the maturation of guard Devin Booker, both on and off the court, saying that Booker has taken that next step in his development into becoming one of the league’s best scorers.
“He’s matured. Devin’s learned to pick his spots,” Jones said. “I think earlier in the year he was trying to figure out how to lead this team. Trying to do it verbally, trying to do it physically, emotionally. I think it was an adjustment for him when he realized he didn’t have to do all of it with Chris [Paul].
“All Devin needed to do was control himself, control the pace and offensively deliver in the clutch. He’s been aggressive offensively and defensively he’s been more vocal. I think he understands his teammates. That’s the maturity of a young player when he can understand his teammates.”
“It’s been a lot of fun, especially the last 10 games where we started to play together and we’re playing some good teams and having fun while we’re doing it,” Jones added.
Mike Hazen, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager
Hazen discussed the team’s outlook in 2021, in a loaded National League West that includes the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
“The expectation is to go out there and win baseball games. We had opportunities, as you could probably imagine, to make some changes with our veteran players. We chose not to do that. It wasn’t something that overly excites us or me in a lot of ways,” Hazen said.
“…I think that we are not blind to what two of the bigger teams in our division have gone out and done this offseason. We respect that, but they still have to through 162 games as well. And we’re going to have to compete against them and they’re going to have to compete against us, and we feel like we have a good baseball team.
“We need, collectively as a unit, to perform better than we did last year. And we’ve worked on a lot of those things this offseason.”
Jason Rowley, Phoenix Suns president & CEO
Longtime Phoenix Suns president & CEO Jason Rowley said the ability to bring the newly-renovated Phoenix Suns Arena online has made both he and the team as a whole ecstatic.
“I would tell you that happy might be the biggest understatement of the year,” he said. “The amount of work and resources from both the city of Phoenix, taxpayers and our organization to bring this building alive. The work that our employees have done, particularly during such a difficult period of time with COVID, being able to bring this building online during all of that. Then you see where the team is right now and what James and Monty have built. We’re just in a inflection point.
“When we opened it up and we had our healthcare workers in here, when we took on the Celtics, it was very emotional for a lot of people.
“We were all standing on the pavilion and watching them come in. You realize that it’s been really a year since you’ve had new faces coming into the building.
“And then our gameday staff that you haven’t seen in a long time. It was a very meaningful moment and it brought into sharp relief just how important sports is to our community and just how important this building is, so we’re excited to share it with everybody.”
Bobby Hurley, ASU head men’s basketball coach
Hurley discussed the state of the team’s season to-date.
Hurley responded to a question about whether he’s disappointed in the team’s 7-9 season by pointing out that this year’s team has battled a litany of injuries and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There might be a fraction — or I don’t know what the percentage — of Sun Devil nation that feels that this is a disappointing season. I feel that pain and I understand that sentiment. It is not a disappointment to me,” Hurley said. “What our team has done this year so far is far from a disappointment. Just what these young men have had to go through this year and the struggles they’ve had and all the injuries and all the protocols and the postponements and the stoppages.
“The way they’ve been able to maneuver through this and keep a positive attitude and keep battling is something I’m so proud of. Although disappointing might be the term that people might want to pin to this team this year, I am so far from disappointed with the group that I’ve had this year.”
Herm Edwards, ASU head football coach
Edwards was next up, discussing the team’s shortened 2020 season and Edwards’ excitement about the future of the program.
“We have a lot of guys that can come back. You feel comfortable when you watch them line up,” Edwards said. “These guys have played with each other a lot and they have a little aura about them right now.
“Now we still have to go out and do it — there’s a lot of road to still travel — but the aura of the team is different, you just feel it.”
Above all, Edwards is excited to potentially have fans at Sun Devil Stadium.
“We miss them. We miss their passion. We miss the excitement of them being in the stands. There were a few last year, but we want to get it going again,” he said. “I think everything that they’re hearing and reading right now, they’re excited about watching us. We don’t want to disappoint them, but we need their support.
“We cannot wait until that crowd walks back into that stadium because there’s nothing quite like it. When that thing is full, those fans, they’re a 12th player for us to be quite honest. And we missed them. I missed them last year, I truly missed them.”
Jerry Colangelo, the godfather of Arizona sports
The “Godfather of Arizona sports” discussed the roster makeup of the 2021 U.S. men’s basketball squad at the Tokyo Olympics.
Colangelo said he’s confident that Suns’ guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul have a good shot at making the squad, which has won three-straight gold medals at the games.
“We haven’t announced anything but I guess if you were a betting guy, you could go one way or the other and you can’t go wrong,” Colangelo said when asked if Booker or Paul were among the pool of 50-plus players.
Colangelo added that Booker’s improved confidence on both ends of the floor should boost his chances of making the squad, while Paul’s history on the team in past events speaks for itself.
“You can see the confidence growing with Devin Booker for sure and I can’t say enough about Chris Paul,” he added. “He played for us with the Olympic team back in ’08, so I’ve had that relationship with him and I know what kind of a leader he is.”
Bill Armstrong, Arizona Coyotes general manager
The first-year Coyotes’ GM discussed the team’s seven-game marathon series against the St. Louis Blues and the team’s recent success on the ice.
“I don’t know if both teams are prepared. It was a grueling series. It’s kind of an odd thing, but it’s a great thing for your group to go through, because it’s just like a warmup — it’s a practice for a playoff series,” Armstrong said. “And we have an advantage now because we’ve been through the grind through it and our team prevailed.
“But it was two evenly matched teams going at it. And I think we caught them off-guard at the start a little bit, where I don’t think they knew how good we were and they quickly caught on, but we played a grinding game against them and we came out with the series win.”
Julie Giese, Phoenix Raceway president
On hosting NASCAR’s championship race at the West Valley facility in 2020:
“I will say when I got that phone call I think I jumped up and down and screamed a little bit. Very excited that this was happening to Phoenix Raceway and the state of Arizona. But then immediately we focused on how we could make this the best championship that NASCAR’s ever hosted.
“And I think, I’ve said this a lot of times, this state’s so used to hosting big events, whether it be the Super Bowl, or Fiesta Bowl, or the World Series.
“So for us, we had a bar to chin up to from a state perspective that we wanted to make sure that we were on that same level. So it was a lot of pressure but also a lot of fun. But to be able to showcase Phoenix Raceway and the state of Arizona, but then to also showcase what this state can do to our industry.”