- Ian O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer
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Jerry Colangelo will listen to New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov about replacing Rod Thorn as team president if Prokhorov chooses to reach out to him, Colangelo said in a phone interview Sunday.
"If I did get a call I'd certainly take the call," the head of USA Basketball said. "I still think I have some juice left. I don't need to do anything, and I'm not seeking anything, but if the right situation presented itself and met my criteria, I would listen."
Colangelo repeated his contention in a CBSSports.com report that he'd had no contact with Prokhorov or any Nets officials to date. But with Thorn set to retire on July 15, and with the Russian billionaire said to be enamored of Colangelo's gold-medal showing in Beijing, the former owner of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks is favored to be a candidate for Thorn's job.
"I've been following the Nets' situation for a long time, just from my years in the NBA," Colangelo said of the move to Newark and scheduled move to Brooklyn. "It's been an ongoing saga, and at some point they've got to get to the finish line. There are all kinds of hills to climb, and they've been hemorrhaging for years, but there's no reason all of that can't work itself out so the Nets can turn into a very successful franchise very soon."
With a World Series title, Olympic gold medal and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction already on his résumé, the 70-year-old Colangelo wants one last shot at the NBA title that eluded him in Phoenix.
"We got to the Finals twice with the Suns," he said, "but never got the ring. That's the one thing that's still out there for me."
Colangelo was a candidate for the Knicks' presidency before Donnie Walsh was named to the position. Colangelo said in the early '80s, before he bought the Suns, Madison Square Garden boss Sonny Werblin met him in the Waldorf-Astoria and offered him control of the Knicks and Rangers.
"The timing wasn't right for me," Colangelo said, "but I've always loved the New York area."
Colangelo was first linked to the Nets over the winter, when Prokhorov was preparing to complete his purchase of the team from Bruce Ratner. Colangelo and Thorn came across each other over All-Star weekend in Dallas, and their exchange was described by one source as awkward, and by another as heated.
"I didn't think it was awkward," Colangelo said, "because I thought our relationship was strong enough to deal with the situation. I wasn't behind any of that. I felt badly my name was mentioned, and I told Rod I wasn't soliciting his job and that I had no idea where it all came from in the first place.
"My relationship with Rod goes way back, and I have great respect for him. I think he's done a terrific job with the Nets, with a lot of adversity to deal with. Again, I've had zero contact with the Nets. It's total speculation. All I've said is that if some team did call me, I'd certainly take that call."
26mSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann