The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is set to honor NIAF Chairman Emeritus Jerry Colangelo at the Foundation’s Arizona Regional Gala in Phoenix on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the iconic Arizona Biltmore Hotel, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Colangelo will be receiving the inaugural Jerry Colangelo Sports Excellence Award in recognition of his career as a sports, business and philanthropic icon. NIAF will also honor Ralph Marchetta, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Footprint Center for the Phoenix Suns and Chris Bianco, owner of Pizzeria Bianco with the Al Carfora Italian Heritage Award. Colangelo, Marchetta and Bianco will be joined by local civic leaders, sports celebrities, NIAF board members, and special guests.
“We are extremely proud of Jerry’s immeasurable accomplishments in sports. We salute Jerry as a distinguished Italian American, passionate leader and a role model for all of us to follow,” said NIAF Chairman Robert E. Carlucci. Colangelo served as chairman of the Board of Directors of USA Basketball from 2009-2012 and served for 16 years as managing director of USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team program, which he re-established as one of the best in the world. He also has made an immeasurable impact on the NBA having served as the chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors from 2001 to 2005.
It was Jerry’s vision, experience and acumen that helped guide the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series championship in 2001. During Colangelo’s 37-year tenure in Phoenix, he turned the Phoenix Suns into one of the most successful NBA teams, with the seventh best all-time winning percentage. He also brought professional women’s basketball to the U.S., while serving on the founding committee for the WNBA.
Born and raised in Chicago Heights, IL, Colangelo began his basketball career as a teenager, earned all-state recognition and was offered more than five dozen college scholarships. Colangelo was honored at NIAF’s Anniversary Awards Gala in 1996 with the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Sports/Business. Colangelo served as Chairman of the NIAF Board of Directors from 2009 to 2013.
Colangelo will be presented with an original sculpture, created and executed by Dante Mortet, a sixth-generation sculptor whose family began making chalices for the Pope 120 years ago. Mortet’s artwork is created in his studio in the heart of Rome. Collectors include Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Scorsese, and Anjelica Huston, to name a few.
To commemorate this occasion, NIAF will award a $5,000 grant to the Boy Scouts of America Grand Canyon Council, based in Scottsdale, AZ. This donation will support scholarships for Italian American children ages 5-18 to attend one of four Boy Scout summer camps located in Arizona.
Individual tickets and various sponsorships packages are available, and acknowledgement of sponsorships will be included in numerous publications online and in Ambassador magazine, the Foundation’s official publication. For more information visit NIAF.org/Arizona. The black-tie Gala will mark the Foundation’s first fundraising event in Arizona since 2014.