'The house is not on fire': Ishbia bullish on Suns, mum on Vogel

Suns owner expresses confidence in franchise's future (1:18)

Suns owner Mat Ishbia pushes back against against the narrative that "the house is burning" in regard to the team's future. (1:18)

PHOENIX -- Days after a first-round playoff sweep ended a disappointing Phoenix Suns season that began with championship expectations, Suns owner Mat Ishbia declined to say whether the team would retain coach Frank Vogel next season.

Ishbia also declined to offer support for Vogel, who, just days ago, stated he had Ishbia's "full support" and was "very" confident he'd be returning to the team that signed him to a five-year, $31 million deal last summer.

Ishbia, who bought the Suns in February 2023, made his remarks Wednesday during an end-of-season media availability at the Footprint Center, just a few days after the Suns were swept on their home floor by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Suns general manager James Jones also addressed reporters Wednesday.

Ishbia said he hadn't had any discussions about the future of any Suns personnel or players and that he was in Phoenix to have those in-person discussions this week.

"We're going to evaluate everything," Ishbia said. "Everything is on the table to evaluate. We have just not started it."

It was pointed out to Ishbia that he was addressing reporters one year after the team fired coach Monty Williams -- and that Devin Booker, the Suns' star shooting guard, has played under six head coaches in nine years.

Would bringing aboard another new head coach so soon potentially give Ishbia pause? Ishbia said he wasn't concerned with that idea and that his only concern was whether the team was good enough and had the right people to win a championship.

Jones praised Vogel but noted the challenges of coaching a core that was in its first full season together -- with forward Kevin Durant being acquired last February and guard Bradley Beal being acquired last summer.

"I thought Frank did a great job given the circumstances," Jones said. "I thought the staff did a great job. I thought the players did a really good job, just not good enough to reach our goals."

During a 25-minute address to reporters, Ishbia often referenced the disappointment of the season.

"I love that people are frustrated that we didn't win an NBA championship, because, guess what? So are we," he said. "I'm happy where we're at, from that perspective, that people are disappointed, because, guess what, there's not someone in the organization that's more disappointed than me, my GM, my CEO, my players, my coach. Everyone's disappointed, just like the fans. Guess what? I'm going to own the team for 50 years, and probably 45, 46, 47 of those years, we'll probably have the same conversation -- like, hey, we didn't win the championship, and we're going to be disappointed then, too. That's how it's going to be, and I love it."

Ishbia remained confident in the team moving forward, saying the Suns were in a "great position" while downplaying concerns about their flexibility to build the roster because of their high-salary commitments and the number of draft picks they traded to acquire Durant and Beal.

"I feel like the narrative around [here is] the house is burning, it's incorrect," Ishbia said. "Fans like to look in the future and say, 'Hey, I really like that 2031 draft pick because maybe that seventh grader is going to be really good and we're going to draft him and one day he's going to be a player.'"

He later added, "Five in the next eight years, we have a first-round draft pick. I know that's not a cool thing to say out there because people like to say their narratives that we have no draft picks, but we have five in the next eight years and we can trade two of 'em next month if we want. So it is not like people say we have no flexibility."

Jones agreed, saying, "Going into this offseason, we have everything we need to be able to add the players or the positions that will make us better."

The Suns enter the offseason with $209 million in salary, the biggest payroll of any NBA team, and face a projected luxury tax penalty of $116 million.

The Suns are also above the so-called second apron of the luxury tax for at least the next three years if they keep their core together. That position will lead to punitive consequences, limiting their ability to add to their roster.

Ishbia pointed out that they have their starting five signed together for multiple years and that it's important to build continuity.

"It was never, 'We're going to win a championship this year or we got to blow it up," Ishbia said. "Championship or bust, this isn't bust. We're in a great position. We're going to be in a great position next year."

He said that the team's issues -- and he cited health and overall newness together -- were "extremely fixable."

"Let's be real -- ask the other 29 GMs [in the NBA], 26 of them would trade their whole team for our whole team and our draft picks as is," Ishbia said. "The house is not on fire. We're in a great position. It's not hard to fix. We have enough talent to win a championship."

Ishbia cited the team winning 49 regular-season games despite their core of Beal, Booker and Durant playing together for exactly half of the regular season, with the team posting a 26-15 record in those games -- a 52-win pace that would have been good for fourth place in the Western Conference.

"We're inches from where we need to be," Ishbia said.

Ishbia also defended the high price of the trades that the team made -- notably for Beal and Durant.

"You look back at some of the trades that James and all of us were part of -- we do those things a 100 out of a 100 times, not 99 out of a 100, a 100 out of a 100," Ishbia said. "And we still do 'em again. And I think [the] other 29 GMs would all do the exact same thing. We feel great about the moves we've made on the court, off the court and we're really proud of it."

Ishbia said there was accountability, including himself, after a season where the team failed to meet high expectations.

"Let's be real -- ask the other 29 GMs [in the NBA], 26 of them would trade their whole team for our whole team and our draft picks as is. The house is not on fire. We're in a great position. It's not hard to fix. We have enough talent to win a championship."
Suns owner Mat Ishbia

"Did I think it was going to be easy? No," Ishbia said. "But do I think we have a great chance to win next year? Yes. And if I ever thought we didn't, I'd say that -- I'd say, 'Hey listen, I don't think we have a good enough team to win a championship.'"

Jones praised the Timberwolves, saying they were the better team. He also noted that the Suns' poor communication -- an oft-cited issue -- was due in part to this being the first season with their big three assembled together under a first-year head coach.

"I thought our communication got better, but I just thought under stress, a lot of times you saw the lack of chemistry, the lack of cohesion and the uncertainty, and that's just something that you have to accelerate for us as a team," Jones said.

Both Ishbia and Jones said the Suns were an attractive team and that Phoenix was an attractive market for free agents to join.

"We'll go through every channel, we'll explore every scenario to add and build our team," Jones said. "It's important to remember that we're starting with six, seven, eight really good players."

Jones, too, said the Suns need more time together to build continuity -- an issue that Vogel cited often during the first-round series as players described poor communication and inconsistent play that lingered all season long.

"For us, chemistry is built over time," Jones said. "And I actually think chemistry is built through fire. So if you ask our guys today what their chemistry is like after going through the pain that we went through this past week, I guarantee you when they come into training camp next year, they're a tighter, more cohesive group."