July 22, 2023 

Inside new general manager Nick U’Ren’s first press conference with Phoenix Mercury

'When I thought about taking this job, it checks so many boxes'

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Mercury will be under new management next season, as longtime general manager Jim Pitman will hand the position over to Nick U’Ren.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

U’Ren, who was most recently a senior basketball executive with the Golden State Warriors, will take over for Pitman at the end of the 2023 season. Pitman will stay on with the Phoenix Suns and Mercury as executive vice president and chief financial officer (CFO).

Pitman and U’Ren spoke with reporters before Phoenix’s 80-62 win over the Chicago Sky on Thursday. Pitman cited the need for someone to be dedicated solely to the role of general manager as the reason he stepped aside.

“There’s been lots of moments over the years when I was like, ‘This might be the time,'” Pitman said. “But really, just over the last couple of years, things have started to build up as far as the demands of both jobs that I do. I’ve been the CFO for the Suns and Mercury organization for over 30 years. And I’ve been the general manager for 10 [years for] the Mercury. And the demands and needs of both jobs have increased dramatically over those periods of time. Especially recently on the general manager side with the new [collective bargaining agreement] …

“So what used to be something that I could do in addition to my other duties, it needs a full-time person dedicated to that job.”

Pitman will not retire fully and is looking forward to keeping a role in the organization that will provide more of a work-life balance. It was hard to have that balance with two full-time jobs, and he said his wife Linda is excited for him to have a more balanced life moving forward.

Pitman was involved in hiring U’Ren, but the process began with owner Mat Ishbia.

“I talked with Mat at the very beginning of his ownership about what my plan was because it’s kind of been my plan for the last couple of years that this would probably be the last year,” Pitman said. “And so he started the process of looking. I wasn’t necessarily involved in the initial stages, but I certainly was involved in the interview stage. … I’m thrilled that Nick has the opportunity.”

U’Ren had worked for the Warriors in various roles since 2014 and was part of their four recent championships. He is no stranger to the Valley, though, as he grew up in the Phoenix area, graduating from McClintock High School in Tempe, Arizona. He worked for the Suns and Mercury organizations from 2009 to 2014, holding roles such as Suns director of video operations and Mercury head video coordinator. He remembers watching the first Mercury game on his living room floor.

“When I thought about taking this job, it checks so many boxes from a personal and professional standpoint,” U’Ren said. “Obviously, being from here and being home is amazing. Being close to family and friends. And then every time I spoke to Mat and Josh [Bartelstein, Phoenix Mercury and Suns chief executive officer], they made it harder and harder to say no. And so to be back with an organization that I love, I started my career with, [and] to work with these players, to work in this league, it’s really thrilling for me.”

U’Ren said he had already thought about making the jump from the NBA to the WNBA because he is a big fan of the WNBA, believes in what the league represents and believes in where the league is going. He said that Ishbia and Bartelstein made the job a “perfect opportunity” because of their plan for the organization and the resources they will have.

Looking at the 2023 Mercury, U’Ren would like their 6-15 record to be better, but he praised them for how much camaraderie they have despite the spot they’re in in the standings. He said plans for the roster going forward will be made when the time comes and noted that Pitman has put them in a position to have success in the future.

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

Toward the end of Thursday’s press conference, U’Ren described how he hopes his new role will benefit his daughter, Jordan.

“To have our daughter Jordan around positive female athletes, role models, [it] doesn’t get any better than that,” U’Ren said. “And so I hope I’m doing my part as a father to put her in that environment to be able to watch her observe all those women. … It means a ton to me. It was a huge part of taking the job.”

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.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.