10:44am: The Hornets have officially confirmed they won’t extend Cho’s contract, announcing in a press release that they’ll begin searching for a new GM immediately.
“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,” controlling owner Michael Jordan said in a statement. “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.”
9:57am: The Hornets are expected to shake up their front office after the 2017/18 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that general manager Rich Cho is unlikely to receive a new contract from the team.
Per Wojnarowski, former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is expected to be the top target for Charlotte. The Hornets figure to pursue Kupchak in the hopes of partnering him in their front office with assistant general manager Buzz Peterson.
Cho, formerly the general manager of the Trail Blazers, was hired by the Hornets in June 2011. His tenure in Charlotte got off to a good start, as he made Kemba Walker his first draft pick with his new team later that month. However, the Hornets’ draft results since then have been mixed, at best, and the club has failed to become a contender.
In Cho’s seven seasons, the Hornets have an overall regular season record of 212-321 (.398). The team has made the postseason twice during that stretch, but was eliminated in the first round each time. Currently, Charlotte’s cap is overrun with expensive role players — Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller are earning nearly $85MM combined this season, and all have guaranteed salaries beyond this year. The Hornets reportedly considered moving Walker this season as a means of clearing one or two of those contracts from their books.
With Cho’s tenure as Hornets GM potentially nearing an end, Kupchak’s name has come up more than once as a potential replacement. Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times wrote several weeks ago that the ex-Lakers GM is likely to be hired by an Eastern Conference team this summer, and Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports later linked Kupchak specifically to the Hornets.
Kupchak, who headed up for the Lakers’ basketball operations department for the better part of two decades, saw his tenure come to an end last year when the franchise replaced him and Jim Buss with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Although the Lakers won multiple titles under Kupchak, his personnel decisions drew heavy criticism in recent years — the massive contracts handed out to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov in 2016 were among his most significant missteps.