Mat Ishbia's 'incredible aggression' may influence how coaching candidates view Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns have made two major moves since Mat Ishbia officially became team owner in February with the latest being the firing of Monty Williams this month.

Ishbia wasn’t 12 hours into his position when Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first-round picks and a pick swap were dealt to Brooklyn for superstar Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst sees those two actions under Ishbia as things head coaching candidates will take into consideration when looking at the Suns vacancy.

“I think Mat Ishbia in Phoenix is potentially a great NBA owner. However, there is an uncertainty there,” Windhorst said Thursday morning on ESPN’s First Take.

“He has not been at the job long and he has shown incredible aggression since he’s been in that position. No. 1 with the Durant trade and moving away from Monty Williams, who has a great track record. When you see something like that, you’re a little uncertain. Maybe a different conversation about Ishbia in a couple of years when you have more of a track record.”

Phoenix Suns majority owner Mat Ishbia watches his team warm up before the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver on May 9, 2023.

Williams posted a 194-115 coaching record in four seasons with the Suns, who went to the 2021 finals and won a franchise-record 64 games last season, but they were 0-3 in elimination playoffs games under him, losing to Dallas last season and Denver this season at home by a combined 58 points.

Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel, Doc Rivers, Sacramento Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez and Suns associate head coach Kevin Young are the finalists for the position, sources confirmed to The Arizona Republic this week.

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Nurse (Raptors, 2019), Vogel (Lakers, 2020) and Rivers (Celtics, 2008) have all coached teams to NBA championships. The Lakers fired Vogel after the 2021-22 season in which they finished 33-49.

The Suns eliminated the Lakers in the first round of the 2021 playoffs in six games.

The Raptors and Nurse parted ways after Toronto went 41-41 this season and lost to Chicago in the play-in tournament while the 76ers let Rivers go after squandering a 3-2 series lead to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Windhorst continued by saying the 76ers, from an ownership perspective, have the most stability of the teams with head coaching vacancies.

“Toronto does, too. They have great ownership, but it’s a little bit unclear as to what their short-term path is going to be,” he said. “With Philadelphia, you know with Joel Embiid under contract that they’re going to go to win. Joshua Harris and David Blitzer have shown good, strong leadership there. They’re stable and they’re deep-pocketed.”

Harris is leading an ownership group to buy the NFL’s Washington Commanders. Harris and Blitzer purchased the 76ers in 2011.

“I think you consider ownership if you have multiple options here because I do think ownership is one of the most important things, specifically having a stable hand there,” Windhorst concluded.

The Suns have already conducted some interviews, sources confirmed to The Republic. There are five head coaching vacancies — Phoenix, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Toronto and Detroit.

Nurse also is reportedly a finalist for the Bucks and 76ers openings.

Ishbia bought the Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury from Robert Sarver for a record $4 billion.

Nick Nurse led the Raptors to the 2018-19 NBA title but Toronto finished 41-41 this season.

The 43-year-old billionaire mortgage lender attended the Mercury's home opener last week as it was Brittney Griner's first home game since missing last season being detained in Russia.

Sarver, 61, sold the Suns and Mercury amid the backlash from the NBA handing him a yearlong suspension last September and a $10-million fine for “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies” found during a 10-month league investigation.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm headed the Sarver investigation.

The NBA statement said the firm's investigation concluded Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league rules and policies. This conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying.”

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Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Mat Ishbia aggression as owner could influence how coaching candidates view Phoenix Suns