CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets owner Michael Jordan has turned to a fellow former North Carolina Tar Heel with a strong NBA track record to help turn around his struggling franchise.
Charlotte hired Mitch Kupchak as president of basketball operations and general manager Sunday, giving him full control of day-to-day operations. Jordan called Kupchak a “proven winner” in a statement.
As a player and executive, Kupchak has been a part of 10 NBA championship teams. He won three as a player — one with the Washington Wizards and two with in Los Angeles Lakers — and seven as a Lakers executive.
“In every role and in every stop during his tenure in the NBA, Mitch Kupchak has brought the highest levels of success to his teams,” Jordan said. “... Having won championships as both a player and an executive, we have confidence that Mitch is the right person to lead our basketball operations, build a winning culture and bring sustained success to our organization, for our fans and for the city of Charlotte.”
The 63-year-old Kupchak replaces Rich Cho, who was fired earlier this season. Charlotte has failed to make the playoffs in three of its last four seasons.
One of Kupchak’s first decisions will be whether or not to bring back coach Steve Clifford, whose contract expires after the 2019 season.
Kupchak brings more than 30 years of NBA front office experience to Charlotte, including 17 seasons as a general manager with the Lakers.
“I’m excited to join the Hornets organization and I want to thank Michael for this opportunity,” said Kupchak. “I am well aware of the passion for basketball in Charlotte and throughout the entire state of North Carolina?, and I am confident that we can build the Hornets into a successful team that our great fans can be proud of.”
Kupchak inherits a roster that includes two-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, aging center Dwight Howard and Nic Batum, but not much else to build around for the future and with few assets available to trade other than Walker.
But Jordan thinks Kupchak is the man who can turn things around.
Kupchak began working in the Lakers’ front office in 1986 under Hall of Famers Jerry West and Bill Sharman, who was the first person to win a championship as a player, coach and executive. Kupchak took over as general manager in 2000, serving in that capacity until being fired in 2017.
The Lakers won four NBA titles and six Western Conference Championships during that 17-year run, posting a 747-607 (.552) regular-season record and winning 63 percent (111-66) of their postseason contests. During that span Kupchak was responsible for the day-to-day management of the team, including personnel decisions, contract negotiations, salary cap strategy and scouting collegiate and international players.
Kupchak played at North Carolina and was the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 1976 NBA draft.
He played nine NBA seasons in Washington and Los Angeles and averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 510 games.
At North Carolina, Kupchak was named 1975-76 ACC Player of the Year as a senior. He is one of 49 UNC standouts to have his jersey (No. 21) honored and raised to the rafters of the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.