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Sports Heroes Who Served: NBA's Suns CEO Says Navy Shaped His Career

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Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Jason Rowley is in his sixth season as president and CEO of the Men's National Basketball Association Phoenix Suns and the Women's NBA Phoenix Mercury. He also served in the Navy.

A man speaks while seated.
Rowley Interview
Jason Rowley, interviewed by Hal Pittman, director of Defense Media Activity, Oct. 6, 2021.
Photo By: DOD Screenshot
VIRIN: 211006-O-D0439-001

Rowley earned his bachelor's degree in 1994 from the University of Arizona and then joined the Navy. He considers his service to be some of the proudest and most formative years of his life. 

He worked as an intelligence analyst with the Third Fleet until his honorable discharge in 1998. He then returned to the University of Arizona to pursue his law degree, graduating in 2001.

On Oct. 6, Rowley was interviewed by Hal Pittman, the director of the Defense Media Activity. Edited excerpts from that interview follow:

Enlisted sailors stand in formation in their service dress whites.
In Formation
Navy recruits stand in formation at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., July 1, 2011. Jason Rowley trained there in 1994.
Photo By: Scott A. Thornbloom, Navy
VIRIN: 110701-N-IK959-260

The reason Rowley said he joined the Navy was that his grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II, one in the Atlantic and the other in the Pacific theater of operations. They told him a lot of impressive stories, and Rowley saw how much it meant to them.

A military lesson Rowley said that translates to NBA team building is that it's important to be a good follower as well as a good leader, particularly in difficult and challenging circumstances. 

"You've got to be willing to not know all the answers and certainly be willing to take feedback," he said.

Sailors do pull ups in the background as a recruit speaks to three men in khaki uniform.
Recruit Training
Jason Rowley trained at Naval Special Warfare Center, Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., in 1994. It is pictured here, Aug. 17, 2010.
Photo By: Navy photo
VIRIN: 100817-N-D0439-005

Learn from failure, recover and keep doing your best, mentioning that in 1995, he failed the arduous training necessary to become a Navy SEAL.

"Sometimes you learn more from failure than you do from success," Rowley said. "Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I finished out my commitment in the Navy."

As for motivating people, Rowley thinks people need to first believe in the vision and in the organization while enjoying what they're doing. If that's the foundation that the team is built on, a good leader will have no trouble motivating them.

More About Rowley:

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Phoenix Flyover
Community leaders and Arizona government officials (from left to right): Jason Rowley of the Phoenix Suns, Timothy Day of Bar S Foods, Rep. Jonathan Larkin (center, right) and Rep. Sonny Borrelli, view Phoenix, Ariz., from an MV-22B Osprey, Sept. 9, 2015, during Marine Week Phoenix.
Photo By: Marine Corps Pfc. Devan Gowans
VIRIN: 150909-M-GM943-096A

As president and CEO of the Phoenix Suns, Rowley is responsible for managing all business operations and oversees the club's interests in the management of Talking Stick Resort Arena, the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, the NBA Development League Northern Arizona Suns, the Legends Entertainment District, and affiliated entities. Rowley previously served as the team’s chief operating officer, as well as its senior vice president and general counsel.

Rowley began his career in 2001 with the law firm of Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, Arizona, and while there he represented the Suns' current ownership group in their acquisition of the club in 2004.

Not surprisingly, Rowley is involved in a number of charitable and civic organizations. He serves on Greater Phoenix Leadership, the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Endowment Board, the Thunderbirds, the Board of Phoenix Suns Charities, and the Board of Downtown Phoenix Inc. He also served as the 2015 American Heart Association Phoenix Heart Walk Chairman and was named the 2011 Phoenix Father of the Year by the Phoenix Father's Day Council.

More Sports Heroes Who Served
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Sports Heroes Graphic
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Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-903


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