HoopsHype.com Interviews

Mitch Kupchak: "We'll be contenders in one or two years"
by Raul Barrigon / May 24, 2005

You've got a lot of decisions to make in the near future. Do you feel like this is your most important offseason since you took over as the Lakers GM five years ago?

Mitch Kupchak: Every year counts, but it's true that right now we have to make a lot of important decisions. First of all, we have to sign a coach, then we ought to take the right three picks in the draft... Last year we didn't make the playoffs, so we must work hard to get better.

How far away are the Lakers from contending?

MK: Well, we think that we have an outstanding player, Kobe Bryant, and we are proud to have on our team two players like Lamar Odom and Caron Butler. I think that with these players, in one or two years we will have a young, talented and experienced core of players to be a contender. Today is something that we do not have, but I have much confidence that we will get better this year.

Which decision will be the most important this offseason?

MK: Every decision is as key as the others. You can get a coach that fits in with the team, but you can be a much better team if you get the right players in the draft. And if you get a chance to sign a good player...

How's the coaching search right now?

MK: We have not made an offer to any coach yet, although we have talked with some of them. One of the coaches we are thinking about is obviously Phil Jackson.

Why would it be good for the franchise to bring Jackson back?

MK: We've always had a good relationship, but I am not going to comment if it would be good for the Lakers to bring Phil Jackson back because I do not want to talk about suppositions.

It's been said that Kobe Bryant will not be a factor in the coaching decision. Does that mean you won't take his opinion into account?

MK: As the other players, Kobe will not have the opportunity to say 'yes' or 'no', and he does not even want to be in that kind of situation. But what we will do is ask them and listen to them. Communication is a key factor; we are always asking them, including Kobe, about what they think about this or that coach, player, college player...

What went wrong last season?

MK: We could not overcome three circumstances. First, Vlade Divac's injury before the season started. Second, coach Rudy Tomjanovich's decision to resign. And third, Kobe's injury, which kept him off the court six week.

What is Kobe going to do during offseason?

MK: First he will enjoy a couple of weeks of rest. And then he will be back on the court, working on his game and getting ready for next season. He is very focused and excited about next season.

Are you tired about Shaq's comments?

MK: Now I don't want to comment anything about this.

What does Jerry Buss represent in your life?

MK: I know him since 1981, so we have a great communication and I think we work really well together. When I was playing and I got seriously injured, I was very lucky to meet doctor Buss. The Lakers have succeeded in the NBA because of their players and coaches, but it has also been a key factor to have great owners like doctor Buss.

Raul Barrigon writes for Gigantes and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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