There was a long time when the Phoenix Suns were the undisputed class of the Arizona professional sporting scene. Jerry Colangelo rose to national prominence as one of the best owners in the game and Rick Welts was known as the NBA's top business and marketing executive.
Both of those men have moved on to other endeavors and the Suns are a franchise in decline, but fortunately, a new leader has stepped up to the plate: Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall.
Hall is receiving national attention for his work with the team he turned around so quickly and for his abilities as an innovative business leader who's created one of best work environments in the state.
This profile of Hall by Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports is a must-read:
Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall won't let his cancer change the best workplace in sports - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
[Hall] is the primary reason the Diamondbacks were chosen the best sports organization to work for in the world by the United Nations and why the team has on several occasions been listed among the best employers in Arizona and beyond.
I was fortunate enough to be around the Phoenix Suns in 2010 when Steve Kerr put together a cohesive team that exceeded expectations. They believed in each other and the front office and coaching staff had a great working relationship. They also had great players on the roster and role players who overachieved.
I was so impressed with the character and leadership on the Arizona Cardinals that I picked them to win ten games coming out of training camp and was only slightly surprised when they finished 7-2 after a miserable start. An 8-8 season for a team that never had consistent quarterback play is quite an achievement and when asked how they did it, players talked about the character of the team's leaders that kept them together during the 1-6 start.
The Diamondbacks in 2011, however, were on an entirely different level.
By bringing in old school, but still innovative baseball men in Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson, Hall created a rare mix of positive attitude and disciplined focus. The result was a D-backs team that was happy and fun-loving but still put in the work and did things the right way. This is the Holy Grail of great team culture.
Being around that organization it was obvious that everyone was on the same page from ownership on down. There was a palpable spirit and quiet confidence that came through on a daily basis. No excuses. No finger pointing. Just good, hard, gritty baseball where the performance on the field spoke louder than winning the press conference and making friends in the media.
The culture Hall created led to winning the NL West and positioned the team for more.
The downside (for us) of Hall being recognized as one of the best in his field, other opportunities come knocking.
According to Henson's article, Derrick Hall is considered a possible replacement for Bud Selig as MLB Commissioner should Selig retire in 2014. He's also likely to be courted by whatever group wins the bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
We'll see how that all plays out, but in the mean time we're just a few weeks away from spring training when the best-run team in the state takes the field.