Hornets To Let GM Rich Cho Walk, Reportedly Considering Mitch Kupchak For Role

Chuck BurtonAP Images

The Charlotte Hornets have opted to move their organization in a new direction. The team announced today that they will not grant general manager Rich Cho with a new contract after the 2017-2018 season wraps up.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was among the first to report the news revolving around the Hornets. Because of their decision to let Cho go, Wojnarowski added that Charlotte plans to start their quest for a new GM right away.

A press release on the team website reveals that Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan appreciates all Cho has done for the ball club. However, “His Airness” recently revealed that winning is the top priority, as it similarly was during his brilliant NBA career.

“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.”

According to ESPN, the Hornets are reportedly considering the idea of replacing Cho with former Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak.

Given Jordan’s desire to win, Mitch Kupchak is not a bad place to start. During the latter’s stint with Los Angeles, he put together squads that produced plenty of regular season victories. More importantly, though, Kupchak assembled Lakers’ teams that went on to win titles.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak Addresses Press
Featured image credit: Kevork DjansezianGetty Images

Despite giving L.A. some titles, Kupchak’s tenure with the organization did not end prettily. Around this time last season he was given the boot by Jeanie Buss, partially because of his inability to attract marquee talent. Moreover, Buss’ reasoning relates to Jordan’s as well. The Lakers are committed to winning, and, in the later stages of his stay with Los Angeles, winning became a thing of the past.

With that in mind, it is easy to question why the Hornets are targeting Kupchak. Jack Maloney of CBS Sports notes a common thread with Kupchak and Jordan, though, that is difficult to ignore.

“It does make some sense, though, considering the North Carolina aspect. Jordan, of course, was a UNC legend, and [Hornets’ assistant GM] Buzz Peterson was Jordan’s roommate in Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, Kupchak himself was once a great player for the Tar Heels, so it’s easy to see the common thread there.”

Notwithstanding those ties, however, the largest tie pertains to knowing how to win. Even though Kupchak’s stay with the Lakers was not perfect, he still led them to lots of success. Jordan is certainly all about that as well, and is probably getting tired of his team’s mediocrity.

It is worth pointing out that Charlotte appeared to be a team on the rise in recent memory. After making the playoffs in 2014, they did the same two years later. In the second case, the team claimed 48 wins.

Be that as it may, the Hornets are in a much different place as of now. If their season ended today, they would miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Eastern Conference team is two spots out of the playoff picture, with a paltry 24-33 record.

Therefore, letting Cho walk appears to be in the best interest of the organization. Although the team has had some highs with him aboard, the team has continued to regress.

Jordan Greer of Sporting News exhibits that this regression derives itself from the Hornets’ current makeup. Thankfully, All-Star guard Kemba Walker possesses the ability to keep his team in games when he is on the hardwood. On the other hand, when he is on the bench, it is a totally different story.

Via Greer, the team’s lack of success led them to wonder whether trading Walker would be worthwhile. Considering Walker’s market value is high, throwing a bad contract such as Dwight Howard in a deal was reportedly mulled over as a possibility. However, in spite of the team’s desire to shed salary, they realized that getting rid of a franchise-type player would not be the best idea.

Via NBA.com, Cho became the first Asian-American GM in American pro sports history in the 2010-2011 season. At the time, he was hired by the Portland Trail Blazers, albeit his stay with them was temporary.

Rich Cho Portland Trail Blazers Press Conference
Featured image credit: Don RyanAP Images

In the summer of 2011, the Hornets bestowed Cho with general manager responsibilities. Before the Portland and Charlotte gigs, he worked in the Seattle SuperSonics/OKC Thunder’s front office.

Although losing a job is never a joy, Cho took the high road on Tuesday. In the same press release as before, the Asian-American had nothing but positives to say about his seven years with Charlotte.

“It’s been a privilege to serve as the Charlotte Hornets’ General Manager for the past seven years,” said Cho.

“I want to thank Michael Jordan, Curtis Polk, and the entire organization for giving me that opportunity, and for their support since that moment. I also want to thank the basketball and business operations staffs, Head Coach Steve Clifford and his staff, and our players for their commitment to excellence and success. Charlotte is a special city with deeply loyal fans and I will always be grateful for my experience with the franchise.”