NBA Rumor: Hornets Front Office

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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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Mitch Kupchak done in Charlotte?

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.”
4 years ago via ESPN

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.

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.

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.”

“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.”
4 years ago via ESPN

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.

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.

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.”
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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.”