New Suns owner Mat Ishbia: ‘There is no role for Isiah Thomas at this time’

Detroit News

Mat Ishbia’s longtime dream of owning a professional sports team is officially a reality.

The CEO of mortgage lender United Wholesale Mortgage was formally introduced as the new owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury franchises on Wednesday, and he delivered a passionate, yet direct, message during his first press conference.

Ishbia, 43, was joined by his immediate family members, including his brother Justin, another member of the Suns’ new ownership group. Ishbia used a free-flowing approach for his speech, walking around the stage while outlining his four key principles for his new teams — winning, community impact, fan experience, and culture — before fielding questions from reporters.

A report about Pistons legend Isiah Thomas, who Ishbia shares a friendship with, joining the Suns’ front office surfaced on Tuesday, but was quickly debunked by The Arizona Republic.

When asked if Thomas would be involved with the franchise, Ishbia said there is no role in the franchise for the former Pistons great, but didn’t rule out a future pairing.

“I don’t read all the reports, but the way I look at it is this: Isiah Thomas is a great friend of mine and I have a lot of great friends,” Ishbia said. “Isiah Thomas is someone who knows basketball in and out. He’s not someone I have in a role, or have an established role (with the Suns). There is no role for Isiah at this time.”

When asked to clarify, he did not deliberately say Thomas would not join the Suns in the future.

“Here’s what I’ll say. There’s a role for (the reporter) in the future. There’s a role for anyone in the future. I have no plans for anybody to come into my organization at this time until I evaluate what we’ve got.”

“I’m extremely transparent. When I have an idea and you think I’m going to do something, you’ll hear it from me. I’ll let you know when we look to hire someone. I promise you it will not come out via any tweet, and no one will know about it until it gets released by me…There’s no people that we’re hiring at this time.”

Ishbia, who lives in Michigan with his three children, was also asked how he plans to stay connected to the organization despite living across the country. He said he will be very active and engaged with both franchises and will rely on his ownership group to find success.

“I’m very hands on,” Ishbia said. “At UWM on Thursdays, I don’t take meetings, I walk around. I talk to people. I plan on doing the same thing in Phoenix, however, as you point out, I’m not going to physically live here. I have these three wonderful children. I live in Michigan, however, I’ll be out here quite a bit… I’m going to be traveling a bit back and forth, and being involved especially as we get things going.”

The NBA approved the bid led by Ishbia to purchase the Suns and Mercury, the league announced Monday. The NBA Board of Governors approved the vote, 29-0, with the Cleveland Cavaliers — owned by Ishbia’s business rival Dan Gilbert of Rocket Mortgage — abstaining.

The Suns are currently fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 30-26 and look to make a deep postseason run for the first time since they were defeated in six games by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals.

“I want to think big. I want to think, ‘How do we make these the elite franchises in the NBA and WNBA?'” Ishbia said. “I want to make it so everyone looks at the Mercury and the Suns as the best.”

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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