Longtime Phoenix sports columnist Gilmartin dead at 88

PHOENIX (AP) — Joe Gilmartin, a sports columnist for the old Phoenix Gazette for more than 30 years and member of the Pro Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, has died at 88.

The Phoenix Suns announced Gilmartin’s death on Wednesday.

Gilmartin moved to Arizona from Wichita, Kansas, in 1962 and the following year was sports editor of the Gazette — then the Phoenix afternoon newspaper. He remained as columnist for the newspaper until 1996, when the Gazette merged with The Arizona Republic.

Gilmartin — selected Arizona sports writer of the year a record 16 times — remained a fixture in Phoenix sports, contributing to the web sites of the Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014. It’s presented to writers and sportscasters whose longtime efforts made a significant contribution to basketball.

“A Hall of Fame writer, Joe knew the game as well as anyone,” the Suns said in a statement, “but he coupled that knowledge with a unique ability to report with trademark humor, a trait that matched his personality. Joe always greeted you with a smile and it’s his warm nature that will be missed more than anything.”

Gilmartin’s relationship with Jerry Colangelo dated to 1968, when Colangelo came to Phoenix as general manager of the expansion Suns. Colangelo became owner of the Suns and headed the ownership group of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Colangelo, now head of USA Basketball and an architect of the expanding athletic program at Grand Canyon University, said Gilmartin “was as good as anyone who came along.”

“That’s the kind of respect I have for him,” Colangelo said. “He was creative, he had style, he was very, very knowledgeable. He was more than fair. He could be trusted. The relationship I had with Joe all those years was one of friendship, trust and respect for the job he had to do. When there were times he had to take me to task, I understood that.”

Gilmartin, who served for a time as broadcast analyst for Suns games, authored the book “The Little Team That Could … And Darned Near Did” about the 1976 run to the NBA Finals.

He is survived by son Leo, an engineer for broadcasts of the Diamondbacks.

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