Phoenix Mercury General Manager and CFO Jim Pitman knew for about two years that he was going to step away from the general manager role. Having two full-time jobs was a strenuous task, especially as the league’s CBA continues to become more complicated as the league grows.
“What used to be something that I could do in addition to my other duties, it needs a full-time person dedicated to that job,” Jim Pitman said.
He won’t be going far, staying on as CFO with the Mercury. With Nick U’Ren taking over fully after the season, however, he feels he will be able to sleep well at night.
U’Ren left a dynasty in the NBA, leaving his post after nine years in the basketball operations staff with the Golden State Warriors. It’s much more than just a promotion for U’Ren, it’s a return to the place he calls home.
“It checks so many boxes.”
U’Ren grew up in Tempe, Arizona and remembers the very first day Mercury debuted. A huge Suns fan as a kid, he was ecstatic to be able to have another team in the Valley to cheer on from his living room floor.
He later joined the team as a Head Video Coordinator and also served as Director of Video Operations for the Suns before he left for the Golden State Warriors. In nine years with the Warriors, he was a part of four NBA titles and one of the most dominant teams of the 21st century.
Now, he takes on the new challenge of bringing his hometown team back to glory, something Pitman feels very confident he can do.
“He’s got the right mindset,” Pitman said. “He knows what our franchise is about, because he’s been here. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do moving forward with the next generation.”
Pitman and Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia identified U’ren as a candidate after Pitman informed Ishbia of his intention to step down. Despite being in a great situation with the Warriors, the pair of them made it difficult for U’Ren to say no to this opportunity.
“When I thought about taking this job, it checked so many boxes from a personal and professional standpoint,” U’Ren said. “Obviously being from here and being home is an amazing thing because of family and friends. Every time I spoke to Matt and Josh about this opportunity, they made it harder and harder to say no.”
In particular, having Pitman be a guide for the second half of this season proved to be the tipping point for U’ren to make the change.
“I don’t feel silly asking him a dumb question because he’s a friend first,” U’Ren said. “I’m extremely grateful to Jim for being willing to guide me through this. I think this gives me a great runway for the second half of the season to get acquainted with our team, our players and our staff.”
U’Ren takes over a particularly interesting team with many questions going forward. Sitting at 5-15, the team will have to weigh how they approach interim coach Nikki Blue following the season, the questions surrounding the potential return of Skylar Diggins-Smith, the remainder of Diana Taurasi’s career and much more.
There will certainly be many challenges, but ultimately, the opportunity to control his own franchise and bringing his daughter around positive influences was enough to make this jump.
“My wife and I talked about it often, just to have our daughter Jordan around positive female athletes… it doesn’t get any better than that,” U’Ren said.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: After four NBA titles, Mercury GM Nick U’Ren is ecstatic to be home