It’s the dawn of a new era for the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. Mat Ishbia was officially introduced as the new owner of both teams in a press conference Wednesday morning, addressing a number of topics in front of his family, team executives and employees, and media members.

After introducing himself, his brother Justin and the rest of his family, Mat Ishbia answered a few questions from the media in attendance. From his approach the luxury tax to the Isiah Thomas rumors to his direction for both franchises, Ishbia gave a broad view of his vision for the Suns and Mercury moving forward.

After the press conference, Ishbia sat down with PHNX Sports in an exclusive one-on-one interview to answer a few more questions. There’s plenty of work to be done on his to-do list, but Ishbia gave his thoughts on Devin Booker, Monty Williams, James Jones, the trade deadline, getting the Suns a G League team, charter flights in the WNBA, and much more.

A full transcript of the interview is below the video.

Gerald Bourguet: “All right Mat, thank you for taking the time, appreciate having you here. First question, obviously, is a lot of the rumors that you even mentioned in the press conference. As far as names that are being tossed about, we’ve heard Mateen Cleaves and Steve Nash, and questions about what Justin’s role is kind of going to be. So I was curious, any of those rumors you’d like to squash or address at this point?”

Mat Ishbia: “Yeah, the problem is, there’s so many people talking about it. So I’m very well connected to the basketball world, so that’s first, and so people are going to tie me to a lot of different names. And the way I tell people is, like, I’m here to find out, I’m quite transparent and honest with things. If I want to hire someone or I think someone’s a good fit, I’ll let you guys know. The reality is, right now, I’m coming in and listening and learning. Like, I don’t plan on making any changes between now and the end of the season. And understanding what we have — learning, meeting people, find out what people’s strengths and weaknesses are. What do we need to change? And so there’s no person, there’s no group, there’s no — I don’t know what people are asking or thinking, but the reality is, when you call me and ask me, I’ll tell you what’s going on and I’ll tell you what I think. And I’ll tell you it with conviction, because if I decide to make a hire of anybody, or make a change with anybody, it’s gonna be with conviction.”

GB: “Absolutely. And as far as the listening and learning process, obviously, the leadership that’s in place with James Jones and Monty, I know you’ve only been here for a day or so, but have you been able to talk with them at all? And what have your impressions been of them so far?”

MI: “Yeah, I mean, both great guys, both have played in the league before, so they understand the game really well. I spent more time with James than with Monty. Monty’s been obviously with the team and got a chance to meet him a couple different times, but not really sat down and talked philosophy and understand things. But those guys are experts. They know what they’re doing with it, my job is to give ’em all the support, give ’em all the resources to be successful, and like I’ve told many people, I think our team and our setup and what we have right now is extremely, extremely successful. And can we make it more successful? Absolutely. Right? There’s a measure of that. But how do we do that, and when do we do that and what’s the play? Those are things that I have to discuss with them and figure out what the best play is for us to go forward.”

GB: “Speaking to that, you mentioned the Suns are kind of the elite franchise, you want them to be the elite franchise, and it wasn’t just, ‘This franchise is available,’ it was, ‘Oh wow, this franchise is available!’ So what, for you, about the Suns and the Mercury made them stand out in that way?”

MI: “Well, first off, it’s the community. The Phoenix community is amazing. People wanna talk about the weather, the weather’s amazing too, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. The way people are, they love the Suns. They love the pride. They love the Merc. They want to be in, big basketball fans, and so to go to a town that loves loves loves basketball, in amazing weather, with a structure that’s already set up — these teams don’t come up for sale. And this is the one. ‘I can’t believe it’s available.’ And so right away, day one, it was like, ‘That’s the target. How do we do that? Like, we are not losing out. If we have to pay more than what else, if we have to build relationships, have to figure out, it takes what it takes, we’re gonna make sure we can come out here and be the next owner of the Suns and Mercury and do right by the community with it.'”

GB: “Obviously you’re coming in day before the trade deadline, that’s what everybody’s wondering about, how that works. What have those conversations with James been like? I know you’ve been talking about being aggressive. how does that kind of dynamic shake out as far as the communication you two have?”

MI: “Yeah, so great communication. The first thing is, like I said, I think our team’s in a great position. I think we got a great team, got a competitive team. When we’re healthy, I don’t know if there’s a better team in the West than us, right? And I really believe that. Now, can we improve our probability? Can we make things better? Absolutely. And being aggressive means we’re going to look at everything. And I do look at everything. But at the same time, we’re gonna only make the right choice that’s gonna help us win short-term and long-term. And if we’re gonna make a short-term decision, it better not be the wrong thing. And so we’re really making sure we look at everything, but I feel great. We got some of the best players in the league on our team, we’ve got young players, we’ve got veterans, like, we’re really in a great position. I don’t know if people in Phoenix realize how great it is. I know our record last year was a lot better than it is this year, but there’s been a lot of injuries. Like, I love our team.”

GB: “As far as the fan experience and the team member experience, I know that what happened before, you can’t really answer for those things. But as far as the message that you want to broadcast as far as Suns fans that are a little jaded by that whole investigation and that whole experience, I know that you like to run your business like a team and that family values are important to you. So what would your message be to those fans that are waiting to see how the next ownership group comes in and handles things?”

MI: “Yeah, well, what they’re gonna have to realize is we’re going forward. We’re looking forward 100 percent of the way. What’s happened in the past, I can’t control. Unfortunately, I can’t change the good or the bad, but I can control the future as the steward of this organization and doing the right thing. And so we’re gonna focus on the team member experience, the culture, we’re gonna dominate the fan experience, make pretty sure fans love every aspect of it, win or lose, right? Community involvement, we’re gonna do great things, and at the same time, winning. Winning in everything we do, and winning makes things a lot better, but we’re gonna focus on all four of those things in every detail, and that’s what we’re gonna focus on.”

GB: “You’ve only been here obviously a day or whatever it is, and your goal is to listen and learn, but as far as things that you look to improve, like maybe having a G League team again, things of that nature, is there anything that comes to mind? And what are your thoughts on maybe having a G League team again for this franchise?”

MI: “Yeah, I’m big on player development. Getting people, like I said if you were at the press conference, I said train them and coach them to be the best version of themself, getting ’em better every day, and then treat them so well they never want to leave. And so having a G League team seems to make a lot of sense. And I think that’s something we’re gonna look at very closely and plan on doing, to be honest with you. And so I don’t know how that process is, what the timeframe is and how to do it, but we are going to have one, because that’s the right thing to do to develop talent, to be able to build it. We gotta make it so it’s close to Phoenix, so therefore, they send the players up and down. So I think there’s a lot of things that I’ve seen a lot of teams do it really well with their G League team, and I think we’re going to emulate that and hopefully make it even better.”

GB: “And then on the Mercury side of things, obviously, big WNBA free agency period, lots of news and all that stuff, and there’s been a lot of talk as far as the charter flights and that issue in the league. What are your thoughts on the direction of the Mercury, and would charter flights in the league be something that you might be interested in as a new WNBA owner?”

MI: “Yeah, so I’m very excited about the direction of the Mercury. We got the greatest of all time on our team, Diana Taurasi, and we’ve got a great team. We had a great team, Brittney [Griner], everyone there. So I feel good about where we’re at, and at the same time, can we get better? Absolutely. And so that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna dig in and figure out how we make improvements in every aspect of it. And the charter planes situation, the way I look at it is, I gotta dig in and get more knowledge on it. Like I talked about in the press conference, knowledge creates confidence, and confidence will create success and conviction around it. And so I’m gonna dig in and figure out what I can do, how that applies, all the details, which I don’t have all of them yet, as it’s day one of the job. But I’m definitely gonna be looking at every way to make the Mercury the elite franchise just like Suns. I’m all in.”

GB: “Obviously, Devin Booker is the big attraction, the face of the franchise type of deal. What are your thoughts of him from afar and watching his growth in the league and where he is now as that Suns figurehead?”

MI: “Yeah, I’m a huge, huge Devin Booker fan. I think he’s got all the things besides on the court, you know, shooter and athleticism and all the things you want to talk about on the court, but I think he’s even a better person off the court. And so that’s the kind of people we want to build around and be around for a long time. And so I’m so — I mean, how lucky am I coming in here? I got Devin Booker on my team. I got Chris Paul. I mean, we got players. I’m not gonna name ’em all once again, but we got players, and with Devin Booker specifically, which is what your question was, like, man. He’s a great, great, great, great player, and a great, great, great person. And that’s what I like to be around.”

GB: “Last question, what are your impressions of the city of Phoenix so far? Obviously, you mentioned the weather, but what are your impressions of the city, and have you found a favorite food spot yet?”

MI: “Ha, not a favorite food spot yet, ’cause I’ve been basically just fast food or eating at the hotel because I’ve been working out here. But from a perspective of the city, people are welcoming. Not even that I’m the owner of the Suns and Mercury in their view, but before that, before they even knew who I was. Welcoming, friendly, kind. It’s a great place. I’m excited to make an impact in the community, and I’m excited to meet people, be engaged, be involved, and it’s an honor that I get a chance to do that.”

GB: “Is there anything that I haven’t touched on that you would like to broadcast to the fans or you would want Suns fans to know about you?”

MI: “No, I’m just honored. Like I said, I really believe that it’s a community asset, and I work for you guys. And I’m gonna do my very best. And just know that I will work harder than any other owner to do the right thing — short-term, long-term and always for these organizations. It’s gonna start with culture, start with team member experience, fan experience, community, and focus on winning. And we’re starting today. Let’s go.”


Gerald Bourguet serves as PHNX's reporter, writing savant and podcast co-host for all things Phoenix Suns. He's been a basketball fan since the day he could say "Michael Jordan," graduated from the Walter Cronkite School at ASU in 2013 with a BA and MA in sports journalism and has been covering the NBA ever since. As a credentialed media member since 2015, Gerald dealt with his Suns-related depression through his writing...until the Bubble Suns changed everything. Now, the Artist Formerly Known as Zewio is just as excited to cover winning basketball as Suns fans are to enjoy watching it.