Mat Ishbia on his Suns: 'We are going to win at everything we do'

Mat Ishbia became the NBA's newest owner when he purchased the Phoenix Suns from Robert Sarvor for $4 billion in December 2022. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

ON A SUNNY and mild Friday morning in New York in mid-June, a breakfast buffet was laid out in a sprawling Four Seasons penthouse suite in downtown Manhattan. Bradley Beal and his wife, Kamiah Adams-Beal, were the guests of honor.

This was a high-end recruiting pitch. It was conducted by the Phoenix Suns with the permission of Beal's then team, the Washington Wizards, who had decided to trade the shooting guard. Beal's no-trade clause made it a free agent situation -- he was picking his destination.

James Jones, the Suns president of basketball operations, was inside the plush suite with team CEO Josh Bartelstein and new coach Frank Vogel, all of whom had flown in the day before on a private jet.

But it was Mat Ishbia, the team's new owner as of earlier this year, who led the three-hour session that wasn't just aimed at basketball but how Beal's family would fit into what's being built in Phoenix.

When the meeting ended, Beal was on his way toward being a Sun.

"That plane ride home will be a memory I have for a long time," Bartelstein told ESPN. "We had prep calls, stayed up late the night before working together on the presentation and it all paid off. Mat led and it went really well."

Ishbia has heard the stories and warnings about so-called new owner syndrome, the winding history of freshly minted governors making overaggressive mistakes in their first months. Mikhail Prokhorov, the former Brooklyn Nets owner who pushed for what became an infamous trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, is at the top of a list, among other examples.

There is an adage, well-known in the NBA, that team owners might want to limit their involvement in basketball decisions.

But that's not who Ishbia is and it's not who he will be. Less than six months in with several massive and gutsy deals that he piloted already under his belt, Ishbia has let it be known how he is going to run the Suns: aggressively and from the front.

Ishbia, 43, was audacious in building the business empire that allowed him to pay a $4 billion valuation for the Suns. He was audacious in his first day in the role when he negotiated directly with current Nets owner Joe Tsai in a blockbuster deal to land superstar Kevin Durant. He was audacious when he severed ties with his cable partner in an effort to move Suns games to free TV. And he was audacious in going for Beal, trading the last of the Suns' available draft assets and blowing into the newly-created "second apron" of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement that was supposed to deter superteam building.

If the Ishbia-led Suns are going to fail, if he doesn't dodge the new owner trap, it will come with such audacity.