NBA rumors: Mitch Kupchak signs multi-year extension with Hornets

Throughout the course of the season, rumors began to float around that Kupchak would step down as the GM at the end of the season or potentially retire altogether. During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Kupchak revealed his status and future plans.  “I will be here for the foreseeable future,” Kupchak said. “I’ve agreed with the Hornets to continue to work for years to come. I think the expression would be a ‘multi-year deal’. I’m thankful to still be working in this league, going to meetings with general managers and the commissioner, and all of these great people at the league office. I’m lucky to be in this position and to continue to do it. For better or worse, I’ll be here for the next couple of years. “As far as I know, it’s the same role,” Kupchak said with a laugh and a wink.

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The uncertainty surrounding Kupchak has sparked the latest round of whispers in and around Charlotte that this may be Kupchak's final year helming the Hornets' front office. But to be fair, word of Kupchak's potential departure—or a transition to more of an advisory role—has echoed among league personnel for each of the past few seasons. Still, there would seem to be more credence to the rumors this summer without an extension in place.
There have been plenty of rumored potential replacements over the years, but the two most commonly discussed names are Buzz Peterson, Jordan's college roommate at UNC and the Hornets' assistant general manager since 2014, and Chicago Bulls general manager Marc Eversley, who began his career at Nike, the parent company of the Jordan Brand. Eversley interviewed for the general manager position in 2018, but the role went to Kupchak instead.
Upon his hire, Kupchak selected James Borrego to be the Hornets' head coach on a four-year deal that included a team option in the final season—this 2021-22 campaign. That contract was the same length as Kupchak's original deal, sources said, yet only Borrego was able to complete a multi-year extension prior to this season.
That particular internship was with PRIMETIME Sports & Entertainment – a marketing agency in Los Angeles – and also the first stop in a crisscrossing continental journey that ultimately landed Angeles her current role with the Charlotte Hornets. Today, she is the organization’s Vice President of Partnerships and as a first-generation Mexican-American, believed to be the only Latina Vice President in a partnerships department at an NBA team. “I was into sports from Day 1,” says Angeles. “My dad and grandpa were huge baseball fans. I’m a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan through and through. I was drawn to sports throughout my whole growing up. I’m from Carpinteria, CA, which is maybe an hour and twenty minutes from Los Angeles. It’s an agricultural town with lots of nurseries and avocado orchards. My graduating class was 125 students and we had only three streetlights. I was a small-town athlete. At first, I never played soccer – basketball was my thing. I got to high school, tried out for soccer and ended up falling in love with it.”
The lopsided nature of the game, and how quickly the Hornets faded in a win-or-go-home scenario, invariably had me curious: What was Michael Jordan's reaction? “We got beat a week ago today, and I chose not to call him until last night — and I’m glad I waited,” Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte’s president of basketball operations, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Of course I’m making a joke, but actually it is a joke and it isn’t. I did wait a week, and Michael was great. He admitted himself that it took a couple days to sort through it. We talked about a lot of the good stuff we have going, and he’s in a good place.”
It’s just not the kind of winning we associate with the maniacally competitive Michael Jeffrey Jordan. He came across as more cutthroat than we ever knew in those 10 documentary episodes, which traced a career arc that encompassed six championships with the Chicago Bulls. How on earth does he stomach three measly playoff wins in 11-plus seasons in charge? “He is very competitive and understandably impatient,” Kupchak said. “But he gets it.”
The signings of Rozier and Hayward were criticized as overspends in some NBA circles (and by the media), but Kupchak couldn't care less. He has been working in the NBA for too long, in some of the largest markets and smallest markets, to give a hoot whether somebody is second-guessing him. "It’s kind of hard to shake me up, you know? There might have been some criticism; I didn't follow it that closely at the time," Kupchak said. "But you’ve got to weigh everything: the draft, free-agent signings, trades. You really have to wait four or five years to look back on it and that's when you know really whether you made a mistake or you didn't make a mistake. So at the time, I didn't get the feeling that there was this uproar about overpaying somebody. Maybe there was, but it didn't really don't bother me."
When asked about the Rozier signing, he explained his thought process. "We believed in a kid. We saw a great opportunity when we were losing Kemba [Walker], who we wanted to keep. And then, for some reason, that made Terry available to do a double sign-and-trade; I think it was the first one that was ever done. It was just a unique opportunity for us to get a young talent. Now, he does continue to get better, and he is a much harder worker than I thought on both sides of the ball. But I'm not surprised that he's productive. But let’s wait a couple more years and we'll look back on it, but we're happy with the signing and it worked out. That's all."
Pete Guelli, the executive who oversaw the brand transition of Charlotte’s NBA team from the Bobcats back to the Hornets in 2014, is leaving the team for a job with the New York Giants. His last day as the Hornets’ chief operating officer is May 10. Guelli was hired as the team’s chief marketing and sales officer in April 2009 and charged with boosting ticket sales. The season before Guelli started, the Bobcats, then owned by Bob Johnson, ranked 27th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance. The team had just under 5,000 season ticket holders at the time.
“One of the first things that jumped out at me is Kemba is so much better than I thought,” Kupchak said. “He does not get the kind of (star) exposure. He’s getting it now because of the way he started the season, but I had no idea how good this kid is.” He tabbed former Spurs assistant James Borrego as the team’s head coach and, in July, he traded former Lakers center Dwight Howard. Kupchak holds the coveted dual title of president of basketball operations and general manager. He focuses solely on basketball, whereas he said he “had more responsibility in L.A. in other business areas.”
How would you say your relationship with Michael has evolved in the past six months? Mitch Kupchak: A little less formal. But still formal. At the end of the day, I have to respect the position. At the end of the day, I have to be careful not to let friendship — or a future friendship — get in the way of what I do and my respect for what he is. He’s the owner. I just don’t think I can act buddy-buddy. Maybe one day 10 years from now, that will be the case. But the reality is that our relationship is going to continue to grow, hopefully. And we may agree on things most of the time, but there may be some times we don’t and we have a heated argument. And at that point, you’ve got to be careful that it’s not a friendship thing. You have to be able to agree to disagree.
Arash Markazi: Gary Sacks has joined the Charlotte the Hornets as a scout after previously working with the Los Angeles Clippers for more than 20 seasons. Sacks was the team’s Vice President of Player Personnel from 2012 to 2014 and Assistant General Manager until 2017.
Rick Bonnell: The @Charlotte Hornets announced some front-office positions. Nothing major, but among them, looks like Matt Carroll will be more involved with player programs. Matt is certainly a good choice to mentor young players.
Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today that the team has named Joe Sharpe Director of Health Care & Sports Performance, while adding Dr. Quinton Sawyer, Adam Linens and Dr. Powell Bernhardt to his staff and retaining Aaron Karkow and Jason Meiring. Sharpe returns to Charlotte, where he previously served as head athletic trainer from 2004-08, after spending the last 10 seasons as head athletic trainer for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday he would like to see point guard Kemba Walker end his career here. Don’t construe that as Kupchak ruling out a trade of Walker, who has one season left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. “He is on a (contract) that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out (the best course) before he becomes a free agent,” Kupchak said, in response to an Observer question about Walker’s status.
So if there was something new in Kupchak’s comments Friday it was his assessing how good Walker is and how beloved he is in Charlotte. “I think he is revered in this community. I know ownership, and myself included, look at him as the focal point of this franchise going forward,” Kupchak said. "(Walker) is a player that we hope is with us, not only for the next couple of years, but he ends his career here.”
Clifford, 56, flew to Michigan on Tuesday to meet with ownership from the DeVos family. A news conference is expected Wednesday to introduce Clifford in Orlando, sources said. Orlando president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman considered Clifford the right combination of tactical coach, teacher and disciplinarian for a young, developing roster.
Marc Stein: The Hornets have parted ways with director of pro personnel Todd Quinter, according to league sources. The well-regarded Quinter is one of the league's most seasoned scouts … but change has been steady in Charlotte since new GM Mitch Kupchak took charge
A month into the job, Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday no major roster makeover is in the works. “There is no master plan to blow up this team right now,” Kupchak said during the team’s news conference to introduce new coach James Borrego.
That was conveyed to Borrego in the interview process. As Kupchak put it Friday, “When he was hired, the understanding is he is going to coach the players (already) on this team and the players we bring into this team going forward.” Borrego said he was comfortable with that, saying he anticipates most of the improvement between now and training camp in late September will be “internal.” “My vision here,” Borrego said, “is to maximize this roster as it stands.”
Spencer Percy: Curtis Polk mentioned today in press conference that the top 2 attributes possessed by Mitch Kupchak (that team was looking for) during the GM candidates evaluation process were: 1) "talent evaluation" 2) "networking around the league"
Charlotte Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan announced today that the team has named Mitch Kupchak President of Basketball Operations & General Manager. Kupchak, who brings more than 30 years of NBA front office experience to Charlotte, including 17 seasons as an NBA General Manager, will be responsible for leading the organization’s day-to-day basketball operations.
“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."
“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. He’s a proven winner,” 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.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Mitch Kupchak has agreed to a deal to become President and General Manager of the Charlotte Hornets, league sources told ESPN. The Hornets will hold a news conference early this week to introduce Kupchak.
Kupchak will keep assistant GM Buzz Peterson in a front office role, and ultimately add own personnel changes to the management and scouting structure, league sources said. Jordan and Kupchak have had a longstanding relationship built around their ties to the University of North Carolina and late coach Dean Smith.
The Charlotte Hornets have made significant progress in contract talks with Mitch Kupchak to become president of basketball operations and general manager, and a formal agreement is expected to be reached soon, league sources told ESPN. Kupchak, who won two championships as the Los Angeles Lakers general manager, has been the focus of owner Michael Jordan's search process to replace ex-GM Rich Cho, whose contract wasn't renewed.
Kupchak will keep assistant GM Buzz Peterson in a front office role, and ultimately add his own personnel changes to the management and scouting structure, league sources said. Jordan and Kupchak have had a long relationship built around their ties to the University of North Carolina and late coach Dean Smith.
Kupchak has been offered the Hornets’ general manager’s job, and a source close to the situation said Monday it’s pretty much down to paperwork getting him on board. Kupchak is 63 and, like Hornets owner Michael Jordan, played at North Carolina. He would replace Rich Cho, who was informed in February the team would not sign him to a new contract.
Kupchak worked in the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office from the mid-1980s until he was fired as that team’s general manager in February of 2017. From the little I’ve been around him, and more importantly from the conversations I’ve had with some of his peers, he is liked and respected by agents, players and other general managers. You hear words such as “sensible,” “practical” and “collaborative.”
Marc STEIN: I can only account for my own reporting on the subject. And everyone I've spoken to with knowledge of what's happening with the Hornets' vacancy insists that Kupchak, after he spent more than three decades in the Lakers' front office, remains at the top of the Charlotte owner Michael Jordan's wish list. According to the latest information, Rosas is the most serious candidate of the others interviewed by the Hornets to date. But word is that Jordan has yet to be convinced to move away from his preference to hire his fellow North Carolina alumnus Kupchak.
Marc STEIN: The status of Charlotte Coach Steve Clifford was not addressed above in our preview of potential coaching changes this offseason, but it seems safe to assume that every aspect of Charlotte's basketball operations will be under the microscope once the Hornets have their replacement for Rich Cho after a highly disappointing season in which they were expected to make a much more credible playoff push.
Hornets Sports & Entertainment (HSE) announced today the promotions of Fred Whitfield to President & Vice Chairman, Pete Guelli to Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer and James Jordan to Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer. “I’m extremely proud of the strides that we have made as a business under the guidance of our leadership team,” said Hornets Managing Partner Curtis Polk. “Our entire staff has worked very hard to improve every aspect of our business operations from both the team and arena standpoint. The commitment from our fans and partners since our rebrand to the Hornets has been second to none and we are very excited about our organization’s future.”
The Charlotte Hornets have started securing permission to interview candidates for the franchise's vacant general manager's job, league sources told ESPN. Former Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak remains a frontrunner to ultimately receive an offer to replace Rich Cho, but the Hornets are engaging in a wider search process and plan to start an initial round of conversations with candidates as soon as this week, league sources said.
Assistant GM Buzz Peterson is running the day-to-day operations for the Hornets now, and is expected to continue with the organization once a new GM is hired. Charlotte is hopeful to have a GM in place sometime by end of the regular season in mid-April, league sources said.
While former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is prominent in chatter about the Charlotte Hornets’ front office opening, he won’t be the only candidate. Another established name with interest is Detroit Pistons general manager Jeff Bower.
Bower is No. 2 in the Pistons’ front office, working for Stan Van Gundy, who runs the basketball operation as coach and team president. According to a source familiar with the situation, Bower and Van Gundy are both under contract with the Pistons through the end of this season. That same source said Bower, 56, would definitely be interested in the Hornets’ opening. Bower worked in Charlotte previously, in the original Hornets’ front office.
With Cho out, assistant general manager Buzz Peterson will run the front office on an interim basis. Curtis Polk, who has overseen most of Jordan’s investments for nearly three decades, said Peterson probably won’t be considered as the team searches for the next general manager.
Polk said the goal is for the Hornets – 24-33 at the All-Star break – to have a new GM by the end of the season, which would be mid-April assuming the franchise does not qualify for the playoffs. Polk said he anticipates four to six candidates receiving interviews. Polk said some attractive candidates might not be available to interview until the franchises they currently work for have completed their seasons.
After declining to offer general manager Rich Cho a new contract, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is planning to target former Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for a high-ranking role in the organization, league sources told ESPN. Jordan is planning to continue grooming assistant GM Buzz Peterson as a foundation of Charlotte's front office, and Kupchak is a primary target to partner with Peterson, league sources told ESPN.
“I want to thank Rich for all of his hard work with the Charlotte Hornets organization through the years and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan. “Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization. We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”
The Hornets have had no contact with Kupchak on a possible position, league sources said. Kupchak won two NBA titles as Lakers GM before he was swept out in 2017 upon the arrival of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Jordan has long had an affinity for surrounding himself with fellow Tar Heels, and his plan includes Peterson remaining one of the key -- if not the key -- decision-maker in basketball matters. Charlotte could be pursuing Kupchak to further groom Peterson to take over full control of basketball operations, but the specifics of a role has not even been discussed with Kupchak, league sources said.
Chris Mannix: Hornets will not extend Rich Cho, per team. As @The Vertical reported earlier this month, Mitch Kupchak is a favorite among high ranking team officials to take over.
Cho is in the final year of his contract and there have been rumblings that former Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is a favorite among high-ranking team officials to take over next summer. If Hornets owner Michael Jordan is resolved to replace Cho, he may not sign off on dealing Charlotte’s most appealing asset.
The Hornets continue to field calls on Kemba Walker, but no Walker deal gets done unless a team absorbs one of the handful of bad contracts on Charlotte’s roster, sources said. Another variable at play: The future of GM Rich Cho. Cho is in the final year of his contract and there have been rumblings that former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is a favorite among high-ranking team officials to take over next summer. If Hornets owner Michael Jordan is resolved to replace Cho, he may not sign off on dealing Charlotte’s most appealing asset.
When Fred Whitfield is not standing in his usual spot in the tunnel of the Spectrum Center at Charlotte Hornets games, Hall of Famer Michael Jordan probably figures that his close friend and business confidant is making an impression somewhere off the court. Whitfield is Hornets Sports & Entertainment’s chief operating officer, president and minority owner and oversees all business operations. The North Carolina native represented the organization’s efforts to secure the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and re-secure the game in 2019 after the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2) was repealed last year. His efforts have quietly played a major role in keeping the Hornets in Charlotte and sports entertainment afloat in the Spectrum Center.
Whitfield has the respect of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team executives throughout the league, and Jordan is glad to have the NBA’s lone African-American COO as part of his team professionally and personally. “I’ve known him for over 35 years, and we have been through a lot together,” said Jordan, the Hornets’ owner and chairman. “We worked together when he worked with my agent, at Nike when we launched the Jordan Brand and he worked with me in the front office of the Wizards. We know and trust each other well, and that allows us to work cohesively with the same goals. I am thankful to have him as the team president and as my friend.”
Whitfield worked behind the scenes to push to repeal HB2 with the Hornets’ business and goodwill in mind. Whitfield’s work didn’t go unnoticed, as the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce named him the 2017 Economic Growth Champion of the Year. Whitfield told The Undefeated that if HB2 hadn’t been repealed, the Hornets might have been forced to move from North Carolina for financial reasons and because of a potential lack of sports and entertainment events at the Spectrum Center. Silver has said that although the repeal of HB2 “did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law.” Silver said he is also confident that the Hornets will “set equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies.” Silver saluted Whitfield for playing a big role in getting the NBA All-Star Game back in Charlotte.
Peter Vecsey: “Harrison’s the kind of guy who will remember that forever,” said someone who knows him extremely well. “He still holds a grudge against the teams that didn’t draft him.” Especially the Charlotte Hornets! Michael Jordan’s team opted for Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2 over Barnes, who played in state at the University of North Carolina.
The team also made the following announcements regarding basketball operations personnel: Rick Higgins has been promoted to coaching assistant/video coordinator, Cam Twiss has been promoted to General Manager of the team’s G League affiliate the Greensboro Swarm, David Kaplan has been promoted to manager of basketball analytics, Adam Filippi has transitioned to collegiate scouting and Jakub Kudlacek has been hired as an international scout.
Malik Monk: “I’m playing for the greatest player who ever played basketball,” Monk said Tuesday of Hornets owner and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. “I can call and ask him questions, and I have (new teammates) Kemba (Walker) and Dwight (Howard), too.”
Charlotte Hornets General Manager Rich Cho announced today that the team has named Buzz Peterson Assistant General Manager. “Throughout his tenure with our organization, Buzz has been an integral part of all aspects of our basketball operations department, with a focus on scouting and player evaluation,” Cho said. “He brings a wide breadth of basketball knowledge to the position, having been involved in the game at various levels for close to three decades. I’m excited to be working more closely with Buzz in his new role and look forward to his continued contributions to our basketball team.”
The Charlotte Hornets have picked up the option for next season on general manager Rich Cho's contract, according to league sources. Sources told that the Hornets recently activated the 2017-18 in Cho's existing deal.
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June 25, 2022 | 8:58 pm EDT Update
“Listen we still run that franchise [Magic]. If they wanna sell it to us, DeVos family, we’re ready to go right now,” O’Neal said on The Big Podcast. “This message go out to the DeVos family, if you’re ready to sell Orlando Magic, sell it to somebody who’s gonna take it to the next level, that’s us. D[ennis] Scott and then, D Scott can pick everybody else. Smart people combined with common sense people and people that’s been there before, you can’t go wrong.”
June 25, 2022 | 7:06 pm EDT Update
“Their continuity wasn’t there,” Perkins said on a recent appearance on JJ Redick’s The Old Man & the Three podcast (h/t Lee Tran of Fadeaway World) about Westbrook and Durant. “No matter how much they tried to fake it to the public, their brotherhood, it never was a brotherhood. And that’s okay, right, because you don’t have to be somebody’s brother to go out there and win a championship. But it helps. They never just got on the same page.