The Charlotte Hornets may not be casting a wide net in their search for someone else to head up their front office after all.
Former Los Angeles Lakers general manager was considered owner Michael Jordan’s preference to replace Rich Cho when it was first announced the latter wouldn’t have his contract renewed. It made sense. Both Kupchak and Jordan are Tar Heels. What more evidence did we need?
In recent weeks, however, the Hornets were expected to widen their scope. Apparently, though, that could all just be noise. At the very least, Kupchak remains their top choice for the gig in question, according to an answer The New York Times‘ Marc Stein provided to a question posed in his recent mailbag:
Q: Can you clarify how Mitch Kupchak became the “frontrunner” for the Hornets’ GM job? Kupchak told the Charlotte Observer on March 16 that he hasn’t even spoken to the Hornets about the position. Houston’s Gersson Rosas seems like a more interesting candidate to me anyway, but I’m confused why most coverage assumes the job is Mitch’s to lose. — Greg Pietras
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.
Aside from his North Carolina ties, Kupchak fits with the Hornets’ prevailing motif. They have traveled great lengths to avoid a wholesale rebuild in recent years, and while they’ve failed to remain playoff staples as part of that process, they don’t appear ready to change course after this season. They would have more seriously shopped Kemba Walker at the trade deadline if that were the case.
Having spent time with the Lakers, Kupchak knows how to attempt a quasi-rebuild using free agency and the trade market as primary tools. Charlotte, of course, isn’t Los Angeles. Free agents haven’t historically flocked there. The Hornets also don’t have cap space. They’re not flush with trade assets either.
Hence why it’s tough to gauge their direction. Is Jordan looking for someone to reinvent the team from the ground up? Will said someone have the power to fire head coach Steve Clifford? How about initiate an actual rebuild, via a Walker trade and all?
Who the Hornets ultimately choose to helm the front office will say a great deal about their immediate plans. And if it ends up being Kupchak, the bet is they’ll head into the summer continuing their attempts to stave off a full-fledged reset.