Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods embraced sports almost as much as public service

Grant Woods (left) was a close friend of the late Sen. John McCain, and the two often enjoyed Arizona Diamondbacks games together. (Photo courtesy of the Woods family)

Woods was passionate about professional and college sports in the Valley and even attended the Diamondbacks’ fantasy camps. (Photo courtesy of the Woods family)

PHOENIX – Even when he was working, Grant Woods always had time for sports.

Arizona is mourning the loss of the former Arizona attorney general and diehard sports fan who passed away unexpectedly Saturday after suffering a heart attack. He was 67.

“Grant was the love of my life. My best friend. My heart is broken,” his wife Marlene Galan Woods said in a statement.”I just cannot believe he is gone. I can’t believe our time together is over. He was the best husband, the best father anyone could have wished for.

“I am so proud of the man he was, public servant, advocate for the everyday person, lover of music and stories and sports.”

While Woods was a prominent figure on Arizona’s political front, serving as Sen. John McCain’s chief of staff and Arizona attorney general from 1991-1999, he was also a prominent figure in Arizona’s sports landscape, advocating for women’s sports and the Phoenix Mercury. His presence in Arizona will be missed, said former Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo.

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“He was a great friend,” Colangelo said. “I always liked him a great deal. He was an athlete. He really enjoyed sports. In terms of our teams, he was there for all the teams in Arizona without question. … When I think of Arizona and I think of Phoenix and the business and political landscape, Grant Woods was a fixture. I heard him referred to as a renaissance man, and to some degree that’s true. He was everywhere. I think he’ll be missed. … He loved Arizona and he was way too young to go.”

Woods enjoyed sports and always made sure he had time in his day to play. During his time as attorney general, Woods still found time to shoot hoops, according to his former spokesperson Karie Dozer.

“He played basketball during his lunch time,” Dozer said. “He had a team of 10-15 guys who would go for lunch. On his schedule he would mark off ‘hoops’ at lunch from 12:00-2:30. It was this super-long period of time, and I would always think ‘Are you really going to be there for 2 ½ hours?’ and he always would.”

Woods was still playing pickup hoops in the days before his death. Robbie Sherwood, communications director for Arizona’s House Democrats, tweeted that he had played basketball with Woods the week before he passed.

A basketball player at heart and an advocate for women’s sports, Woods took to Twitter in September to voice his displeasure when a Mercury playoff game was moved out of Footprint Center due to a scheduling conflict with a Disney On Ice show.

“The disrespect shown to women’s sports is epic,” Woods said on his personal Twitter account. “Our Phoenix Mercury (w/one the greatest players in history @DianaTaurasi) is in the playoffs and for the 2d playoff game in a row they are kicked out of their own arena. And I hear they have nowhere to play Game 4. Total BS.”

Woods’ support for the Mercury was encapsulated during their run to the WNBA Finals, as the former attorney general frequently expressed his excitement.

“What an exciting game,” Woods said in reference to the Mercury’s 91-86 victory over the Chicago Sky in Game 2 of the WNBA finals. “It’s really pretty damn great that the Suns players go to the games and are so into it. Two of the best ever got us that victory-BG (Brittney Griner) kept us in it and Diana Taurasi brought it home.”

Along with the Mercury, Woods loved the Diamondbacks. His displeasure and frustration with the team’s struggles led to a public disagreement with Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, who Woods called “a very poor owner and person.”

His relationship with the Fiesta Bowl may have kept Woods from a run for Phoenix mayor in 2011 after the bowl hired him to look into reports that Fiesta employees had made illegal campaign contributions and had been illegally reimbursed through bonuses.

After a one-week investigation, Woods reported no wrongdoing. An independent investigation later proved otherwise and six bowl employees, including Chief Executive John Junker, were convicted of crimes. Woods reportedly was paid $55,000 for his work and passed on $20,000 of that fee to a bowl lobbyist. Woods wrote in an 2011 editorial for The Arizona Republic that he had failed in the investigation.

“I should have worked harder to live up to the standards I set for myself, if for no other reason than to protect my reputation,” Woods wrote. “But I didn’t get the job done this time, and I regret greatly that I let my client down.”

Woods’ enthusiasm for sports in Arizona was apparent before the days of social media. Before Woods could voice his opinions with the click of a button, he was just as passionate, Dozer said.

“He always wanted to manage,” Dozer said. “He always thought of himself as the coach. … It was like he managed the teams in his head.”

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Dozer said Woods’ workdays would revolve around sports. Whether that was in his office in Arizona, or meeting with President Bill Clinton, Woods always had time to catch a game. After Woods helped recover healthcare costs for Arizona residents who used tobacco, he and Dozer decided to work in one more adventure.

“It was during the Tobacco negotiations, and after the state settled there were several months where Congress reviewed the agreement and the White House weighed in,” Dozer said. “We went down to D.C. and President Clinton signed an agreement about how Congress was going to disperse funds, and who was going to get what from the settlement.

“The Baltimore Orioles had a game that night at Camden Yards. We hired a car and a driver and drove down to the Orioles game. It was one of those perfect baseball nights. It was one of the perfect days and we had great seats and it was one of those days you wished would never end.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Henry Schleizer expects to graduate in May 2022 with a degree in sports journalism. Schleizer, who has interned for ArizonaSports 98.7 and the Draft Network, is working in the Phoenix Sports Bureau.