February 9, 2023 

Ishbia shares plans for Mercury, Suns as he takes over controlling interest

Mat Ishbia will take a four-prong approach to improving both squads

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Mat Ishbia took the stage in front of a packed room of reporters for the first time since taking over controlling interest of the Phoenix Mercury — and Phoenix Suns of the NBA — on Tuesday. Behind him, there was a backdrop featuring both teams’ logos setting a tone that suggested equality between the franchises would be a focus under his leadership.

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Ishbia went on to list four ways he plans to ensure success for both of his teams. With the first, he intends to change the toxic culture which contributed to his predecessor Robert Sarver’s suspension and eventual decision to sell.

“We want the best people to join the Suns and Mercury,” Ishbia said. “We want to train them, coach them to be the best version of themselves. And then treat them so well they never want to leave. … We’re going to go forward and make some changes and make this thing one of the best places to work across the country.”

He also detailed his plans to “dominate” the fan experience and contribute more to the community around them. Then his fourth point turned focus to the teams’ success on the court where they hope to build two competitive franchises.

“We’re going to win at everything we do,” Ishbia said. “Not just on the court. Off the court as well. Right? We’re going to try to win a sponsorship deal. We’re going to try to win the heart of that kid. We’re going to try to win every game we can win. We’re going to try to win championships but we can’t win every year. But I promise you we’re going to try.”

When asked about his long-term involvement with the teams Ishbia, who does have a basketball background as a former walk-on under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, deferred to the experts.

“We got Jim Pitman (Mercury general manager) and James (Jones) on the Suns’ side,” Mat Ishbia said. “They evaluate talent on their teams and we got scouts and we got great people from basketball-player perspective. But the things that I look at and value that maybe are a little different than what other people look at are leadership, culture, amazing work ethic and amazing attitude.”

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Thomas does not have a role with the organization

On Tuesday, TNT’s Chris Haynes reported that Ishbia was planning on bringing in former Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas for a front office position.

That immediately raised red flags as hiring Thomas would appear to go against Ishbia’s cultural goals since he was sued for sexual harassment in 2007 as a member of the New York Knicks’ front office. However, shortly after Haynes’ report, Mat Ishbia’s camp refuted the report.

When asked Tuesday if Thomas will have a position with the organization, Mat Ishbia said Thomas is a good friend of his and knows basketball well but said there is no role for him at the moment. However, he did not rule out a potential future role for Thomas.

“There’s a role for anyone in the future,” Mat Ishbia said. “The way I look at it is I have no plans. … I have no plans for anybody to come into my organization at this time.”

Written by Jesse Morrison

Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.

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