Days later, the Suns paid handsomely for two assistants: Kevin Young, who was rumored to be a strong candidate for the head coaching job, and David Fizdale, a two-time champion as an assistant and someone who is familiar with Vogel as a Los Angeles Lakers assistant in 2021-22. Vogel was paid well himself with a reported five-year, $31 million deal.
Behind the scenes, Phoenix owner Mat Ishbia has created a pursuit of winning that previous ownership would not touch.
The Suns are in the midst of their most successful stretch in franchise history. Still, things have not been good enough for Ishbia, who is the president and CEO of the largest wholesale mortgage lender in the United States, United Wholesale Mortgage.
The new owner, who won a national championship at Michigan State in 2000, pushed the Suns to trade for all-time great forward Kevin Durant before the trade deadline. They had to give up Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and a plethora of picks, but it moved the team in a direction Arizona sports franchises have gone far too few times.
The Suns did not win a championship this season. In fact, they were blown out in an elimination game for the second straight year with their 125-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Phoenix did not look like a better team than the Nuggets. They have to go through them to win the title, so changes must be made.
Ishbia did not waste time. He fired coach Monty Williams two days later, setting up a coaching search to lead Durant and Devin Booker, who are each under contract for at least the next three seasons (Durant for three and Booker through 2027-28) to a higher chance of winning.
Phoenix chose Vogel, who won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019-20. The most important part of his hiring is not that or his experience as a defensive guru.
He was able to push stars to be their best. LeBron James arguably should have won MVP in 2020. Anthony Davis was at the peak of his powers in Los Angeles.
The Suns are entering a period where Booker will be at his prime. He is 26 years old and looked like the NBA's best player before he hurt his foot/ankle area in Game 5 against the Nuggets.
Durant is arguably a top-10 player of all time. He might be the best individual basketball player ever given his ability at his height.
Vogel could push those two. He also has an assistant who reportedly has huge support from Booker, Young.
The Suns wanted to keep him on their staff and made him the highest-paid assistant in the NBA at $2 million a year.
Monday, Phoenix poached Fizdale from his associate general manager position with the Utah Jazz to be an assistant. Fizdale was an assistant for the Miami Heat from 2008 to 2016, when they won two championships with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Fizdale will make between $1.3 and $1.5 million a year, according to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's John Gambadoro.
Ishbia knows what it takes to build a championship organization. He said when he was introduced as the Suns' majority owner in February he would focus on winning, fan experience, community engagement and culture.
Phoenix has put pieces in place to move toward its first-ever championship.
The next steps will be difficult. The Suns have four players who are under max contracts (Durant, Booker, starting point guard Chris Paul and starting center Deandre Ayton).
Phoenix has to work within the confines of a new collective bargaining agreement. There is a secondary apron around $17.5 million above the luxury tax line, making it difficult for the Suns to spend significantly more money than their competitors.
Phoenix has to retool its roster around Booker and Durant. Phoenix could choose to keep its corps and sign veteran minimum players around them or deal one or both of Paul and Ayton to get back assets.
The Suns seemed to have maximized their coaching search. Expect Ishbia to do the same no matter what path his team takes moving forward.