PHOENIX SUNS

Mat Ishbia needs to decide if the coach or roster should be changed

Apr 30, 2024, 8:00 PM | Updated: May 1, 2024, 7:24 am

Mat Ishbia faces critical offseason after the Suns disappointing finish to the 2023-24 NBA season....

Mat Ishbia during Game 3 of the Phoenix Suns' series against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Fingers are pointing. Haters are hating. People are laughing. 

Despite a much-needed change in ownership on Planet Orange, we are a NBA punchline once again. 

For the first time in his stewardship of the Suns, Mat Ishbia is getting skewered. He came into the league talking big and spending even bigger. For all that effort and investment, he received zero playoff victories.   

Some say he is guilty of New Owner Syndrome, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He traded for Kevin Durant in his first official day on the job. He embraced the nuclear waste that is Bradley Beal’s contract. He was fueled by dramatic success in another business/industry, with a force of personality that has always made the impossible seem attainable.  

Ishbia also played the sport at a very high level, albeit as a benchwarmer on Tom Izzo’s title winning team at Michigan State. But we all took solace that any potential meddling would come with real expertise, unlike, say, Robert Sarver teaching Deandre Ayton how to box out in the hallways of Footprint Center. 

But professional sports can be Darwinian and cruel, and our very first Super team in Phoenix devolved into one of the most disappointing outfits in league history.   

The 2023-24 Suns had no depth, no size, and no point guard. Ishbia also chose a defensive-minded head coach to lead a trio of offensive-minded shooting stars. The disconnect was obvious. 

There were games when the collective talent was staggering and times when their collective apathy was appalling. Reports of Kevin Durant’s frustration surfaced on Christmas Day. Devin Booker seemed strangely detached for most of the season. There are whispers of a Suns reserve airing out and excoriating the entire group in a passionate pre-game rant, blistering the team’s core for their disgusting nonchalance. Even more stories surfaced in the media minutes after their elimination loss to the Timberwolves, illuminating a team that was rolling their eyes at their head coach near the end of the season. 

That’s bad. 

The NBA is a player’s league, and the head coach always pays the price. But the spectacular failure of the Suns isn’t all on Vogel’s shoulders. Ishbia needs to own the flawed roster. Booker, Durant, and Beal failed to take ownership, creating a culture of dissent. In the end, Charles Barkley was right.   

The leaders never led. 

Ishbia also has very little flexibility moving forward. If he wants to keep Vogel, someone must be traded, and Durant is the only candidate. The Knicks might be interested if they don’t win the Eastern Conference this season, and Durant could be packaged in a deal that includes power forward Julius Randle. The 76ers and Warriors are also rumored among the potential suitors. 

But if Ishbia decides to run it back with the Big Three, a new vision and a new head coach are required. Fair or not, he needs to replace Vogel with someone who can inspire, empower, and harness the Suns’ transcendent firepower.   

There is no other way. Because at this point, there are no other options. 

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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Mat Ishbia needs to decide if the coach or roster should be changed