Mitch Kupchak

Latest On Hornets’ Head Coaching Search

Darvin Ham was scheduled for a second interview for the Hornets‘ head coaching job prior to becoming the new head coach of the Lakers. With Ham off the table, former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are considered finalists for the position, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

President of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak has been busy preparing for the upcoming draft (the Hornets own the Nos. 13, 15, and 45 picks), which is partly why Charlotte’s search has progressed slower than the vacancies in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Kupchak’s new extension is a two-year deal, sources tell Fischer.

Another reason for the relative lack of progress is that none of the coaching candidates have met with owner Michael Jordan yet, as he was on vacation, but the final stage of interviews could occur this week once he returns, Fischer reports.

At the combine a couple of weeks ago, league personnel indicated Atkinson appeared to be gaining momentum for the position. The former Nets head coach “projected great confidence” that he’d ultimately land the job in calls with team staffers and other NBA figures with knowledge of the organization, according to Fischer. Atkinson is known as a detail-oriented person, and sources close to the coach indicate the research he’s done on the Hornets is reflective of that, Fischer says.

However, D’Antoni’s name has been linked to the Hornets most often, and a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told Fischer that D’Antoni appears to be favored by Jordan, which contradicts the “push-back” that Marc Stein received after reporting that D’Antoni appeared to be a strong candidate. Stein also recently said that if D’Antoni is hired, the offensive-minded coach could bring former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, who’s known as a defense-first coach, along with him as an assistant.

As Fischer observes, Atkinson’s strong background in player development seemingly fits well with a young team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015/16 (the Hornets were eliminated in the first game of the play-in tournament as the No. 10 seed each of the past two seasons). Having said that, Atkinson’s player development background is similar to James Borrego, who was fired after the season ended, leading to league speculation that Charlotte might opt to hire D’Antoni instead.

Mitch Kupchak Signs Multiyear Extension With Hornets

MAY 20: The Hornets have officially announced Kupchak’s extension.

“Mitch has done a great job leading our organization,” team owner Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He and his staff have assembled a talented, young team, and I’m excited about our future. I look forward to continuing to work with Mitch in the years ahead as our team continues to improve.”


MAY 19: President of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters that he has signed a multiyear extension with the Hornets, as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer relays (via Twitter). It was previously reported that Kupchak was in the final year of his contract.

For better or for worse, I will be here for the next couple of years,” Kupchak said Thursday, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. The executive declined to say when the contract will expire.

Kupchak has been with Charlotte since April of 2018. He was previously the long-time GM of the Lakers, having worked for the team for three decades after he retired as a player. Kupchak has won a total of 10 NBA championships in his lengthy career, three as a player and seven as an executive.

Kupchak has acquired an impressive array of talented players since he became the head of the Hornets’ basketball operations, including Miles Bridges, Devonte’ Graham (now on the Pelicans), Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Cody Martin, Kelly Oubre, and All-Star LaMelo Ball, among others. However, the team has missed out on the playoffs in his four years at the helm, having been eliminated in the play-in tournament the past two seasons, which led to former head coach James Borrego being fired.

When asked about the contract status of Bridges, who’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, Kupchak said the team plans to re-sign him.

Our intention is to keep Miles long-term, yes. He’s a big part of our future,” he said, per Boone (Twitter link).

Kupchak, who turns 68 next week, also said Charlotte has interviewed eight candidates for the team’s head coaching vacancy thus far (which aligns with our tracker), and he’s “hopeful of having someone in place within two weeks.” He added that he’s hoping to find a coach to take the team “to that next level” (Twitter link via Boone).

Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson have reportedly received second interviews for the position, and former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is considered a serious candidate as well.

Hornets Rumors: Jordan, Kupchak, Head Coach Candidates

The decision to fire former Hornets head coach James Borrego apparently came from owner Michael Jordan, not president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. This contradicts a report last month that Kupchak was the driving force behind the move.

Sources tell Fischer that Jordan was unhappy with Charlotte’s poor defense, which fell from 16th in 2020/21 to 22nd this season. The Hornets also gave up 144 points to Indiana in last season’s play-in tournament and then 132 to Atlanta this season, both blowout losses.

The Hornets are in the early stages of their search to fill the coaching vacancy, Fischer writes. Kupchak has been mulling over candidates and is acting as though he’ll remain in charge of the team’s basketball operations even though his contract expires after the season, sources tell Fischer.

The team has discussed finding someone to eventually succeed Kupchak for years, but the Hornets want him to remain in place for at least the short term, assuming the two sides can work out their difference of opinion regarding salary, which sounds like a formality.

Prior to Adrian Wojnarowski’s report that the Hornets will interview Mike D’Antoni, Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham and Sean Sweeney for their head coaching job, Fischer explored some possible candidates, including D’Antoni and Atkinson.

Like the Kings, the Hornets are also searching for someone with previous head coaching experience. League sources tell Fischer that former Rockets head coach D’Antoni, Warriors assistants Mike Brown and Atkinson, and Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse are potential candidates for the opening. Brown holds previous head coaching experience with the Cavaliers and Lakers and is a finalist for Sacramento’s job, while Atkinson was Brooklyn’s lead coach from 2016-20.

Fischer notes that D’Antoni has frequently been linked to the Sixers since Daryl Morey became president of basketball operations, but the team has consistently maintained that head coach Doc Rivers and the front office are aligned on their shared vision of the future. Rivers still is still owed an additional $24MM over three years following this season, so even if Morey did want to fire him, that would be a bitter pill for Philadelphia’s ownership to swallow, Fischer observes.

Echoing a report from Marc Stein, Fischer says one more name to keep an eye on for the Hornets is Jazz coach Quin Snyder, who still has one year remaining on his contract with Utah. Synder previously worked under Kupchak’s front office as a Lakers assistant and has ties to North Carolina — he played for Duke in college and was an assistant coach there prior to becoming Missouri’s head coach.

Snyder has repeatedly been linked to the Lakers‘ opening, but several sources tell Fischer that L.A. doesn’t appeal to Utah’s head coach.

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Kupchak, Assistants, Jordan

Although Hornets owner Michael Jordan signed off on the decision to fire former head coach James Borrego, a source told Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer that president of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak was the driving force behind the move.

An embarrassing 29-point play-in tournament loss to Atlanta after suffering a 27-point defeat to Indiana in last season’s play-in was one reason Kupchak decided to move on from Borrego, according to Boone. The team’s poor defense — Charlotte was ranked 22nd in the regular season and gave up 132 points to Atlanta — was another.

The players also weren’t receptive to Borrego’s messages of late, per Boone, which was likely another factor that Kupchak considered before making his judgment.

The move stunned many people around the league, including an NBA agent who represents a Hornets player.

I’m shocked,” the agent told Boone. “I’m kind of surprised. I thought he did a good job.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • League sources told Boone that all of the assistant coaches who worked under Borrego will remain on staff until the new head coach is hired, and the new hire will determine whether to retain them or not.
  • It’s clear that Charlotte no longer accepts losing after relieving its coach, and at minimum a playoff berth should be expected going forward. With that in mind, Matthew Stephens of The Charlotte Observer explores a few potential candidates for the opening, including former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
  • Borrego’s firing is the latest example of Jordan’s failing as an owner, argues Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer. Since Jordan became a minority partner in 2006, he has had final say in the team’s basketball operations. In that 16 year-span, the Hornets have won zero playoff series, and only made it to the postseason three times, Fowler notes.

Hornets Rumors: Kupchak, Hayward, Bridges, Borrego

People around the NBA have speculated for years about the possibility of Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak leaving the organization or transitioning into more of an advisory role, but those whispers have intensified this year, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. As Fischer explains, Kupchak’s current contract with Charlotte is believed to expire at the end of this season.

It’s unclear at this point what Kupchak’s future holds, but Fischer says two names have frequently been cited as potential candidates for the top job in the Hornets’ front office if a change occurs. One is current assistant general manager Buzz Peterson, who was roommates with team owner Michael Jordan at UNC. The other is Bulls GM Marc Eversley, who interviewed for the job in 2018 before the Hornets hired Kupchak.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • “Word has circulated” among rival front offices that Hornets forward Gordon Hayward may be interested in a change of scenery this offseason, Fischer reports. However, a source close to Hayward told Bleacher Report that the veteran is primarily focused on recovering from the foot injury that appears likely to end his season.
  • Some league executives think that Hayward could be involved in a trade for Russell Westbrook, allowing the Hornets to increase their 2023 cap flexibility, according to Fischer. However, it would be a challenge for the Hornets and Lakers to work out a deal that appeals to both sides and includes both of those highly-paid former All-Stars. Using Hayward to try to acquire a center is another option Charlotte could explore, Fischer adds.
  • It’s unclear whether the Pacers will seriously consider Myles Turner – long considered a top trade target for the Hornets – this offseason, but league personnel expect Charlotte to be in the market for a rim protector like Turner. “They don’t defend,” one team scout said to Fischer. “You gotta find a defensive identity.”
  • Fischer’s sources believe the Hornets would match any offer sheet for RFA-to-be Miles Bridges. With that in mind, it remains to be seen if teams will be dissuaded from going after Bridges or if there could be a club willing to submit a maximum-salary offer to force Charlotte to match it. A four-year max deal for Bridges from a rival suitor projects to be worth about $128MM.
  • Even if the Hornets don’t make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, Fischer’s sources inside and outside of the franchise believe head coach James Borrego is a good bet to stick around. “It would make no sense to fire him,” an assistant general manager told Bleacher Report. “I know the NBA is a results-oriented business, but if you believe in him to be your coach, if you believe in him growing alongside LaMelo (Ball) and Bridges, you’ve taken a step forward each of the last two seasons, you just extended him. Why would not making the playoffs with a young roster suddenly change that?”

Southeast Notes: Collins, Hawks, Magic, Hornets

After Hawks power forward John Collins opted to not accept Atlanta’s four-year, $90MM contract extension offer during the 2020 offseason, opinions were split on what he could fetch in restricted free agency ahead of the 2020/21 season. As an athletic jump-shooting big man who still appears to have room to grow, Collins now appears set to be one of the top available free agents this summer, opines Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

“The couple of seasons I had before might not have been viewed as winning and empty stats,” Collins told Kirschner. “I don’t know if I wanted to prove to anyone anything other than versatility and playing basketball at a high level. I wanted to show that I could play at a high level and add winning to an organization in more ways than just one. I feel like I’ve proven that. I’m pleased with myself and my ability to help the team win and show my ability to be versatile.”

Kirschner writes that the Hawks should ensure that they re-sign Collins, who proved to be a crucial component of the club that took the eventual-champion Bucks to six games in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. Kirschner projects that a four-year, $110MM deal could satisfy both Collins and Atlanta.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks have announced some finalized coaching staff hires ahead of the 2021/22 season, according to a team press release. Joe Prunty, most recently an assistant with the Suns, and Jamelle McMillan, most recently an assistant with the Pelicans, are the new additions under head coach Nate McMillan. Prunty and Jamelle McMillan were reported to be possibilities for Atlanta earlier this month.
  • Magic president Jeff Weltman indicated that Orlando has had conversations about trading up or down in the upcoming 2021 draft, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). “I think trading up is always difficult, and it’s always difficult the higher you’re talking [about] in the draft,” Weltman said. “I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of discussions both ways, up and down. And it’s not easy to get those deals done.” The Magic currently have the Nos. 5 and 8 selections in the first round of Thursday’s draft.
  • Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has suggested that Charlotte will select the best player available with the No. 11 pick in Thursday’s draft, writes Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer. Though upgrading the center position appears to be the team’s most pressing need, the team is open to all possibilities. “We don’t know what the future holds for [free agent centers Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo],” Kupchak said. “Do they want to come back here? I think they do. And then there is a marketplace that has to be considered.” Kupchak conceded that the team could use help at the five spot. “So if you just look at a depth chart, it’s clear to see … there’s a need there.” He cautioned that the draft may not be the route the Hornets ultimately go when it comes to improving at center. “There aren’t too many centers in the draft. We’re not going to hunt a center.”

Kupchak Was Surprised To Get Hayward

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak didn’t think the team had much of a chance at landing Gordon Hayward in free agency last offseason, Chris Sheridan of Basketball News reports.

While the team had the means to create enough cap room for Hayward, the Hornets were surprised that he opted out of his contract with Boston, let alone wanted to go to Charlotte. Hayward signed a four-year, $120MM contract and officially came to Charlotte via a sign-and-trade.

“I didn’t think he would opt out of that and want to leave Boston,” Kupchak said. “That doesn’t happen very often so when that was happening, even at the very end, even though we tried and we did everything we could do — and it was a good feeling that he was going to come to Charlotte — there was a big part of me that said, ‘This just doesn’t happen very often, that a player of this caliber will go to a small market.’ So I wasn’t really sure until we got his signature that he was going to come… That just kind of happened.”

A similar scenario unfolded a year earlier when the Hornets agreed with Terry Rozier on a three-year, $58MM contract and worked out a sign-and-trade with the Celtics after Kemba Walker chose Boston in free agency.

Kupchak has taken heat for overpaying for Hayward and Rozier, but he shrugs it off.

“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.”

Hayward was enjoying an All-Star level season (19.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 4.1 APG) before suffering a foot injury in early April. Rozier is averaging 20.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 4.1 APG this season.

Hornets Notes: Offseason, Washington, Monk, Hernangomez

The Hornets lobbied to be included in the NBA’s restart this summer and are “very disappointed” not to be part of it, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said on Tuesday, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. However, Kupchak and head coach James Borrego accepted the league’s decision and will be satisfied with an opportunity to conduct team activities this summer.

As Bonnell details, Borrego thinks it would make sense for the bottom eight teams not invited to Orlando to be permitted to practice while the other 22 clubs are playing at Disney in August.

“The amount of time they’re spending with their teams and their players as a unit, we believe we should have the same. That would level the playing field a little bit more,” Borrego said. “For me, it’s more about the time that we have (to work with players and to scrimmage) — that it syncs with what (other teams are) getting in Orlando — and also the live play, which we don’t get a lot in the summer.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Also within that Bonnell article linked above: Borrego said he thought P.J. Washington should be on this season’s All-Rookie First Team, and Kupchak said that the Hornets are still in talent-acquisition mode rather than focusing on fit. “At some point, we’ll hopefully be that advanced, to sit down and talk about, ‘Hey, we’ve got five or six guys with great talent, now how do they fit together?'” Kupchak said, according to Bonnell. “I don’t think we’re there right now.”
  • In a separate article for The Observer, Bonnell digs into whether the Hornets have any realistic paths to acquiring a star player.
  • Now that Malik Monk has been reinstated following his drug suspension, he’s set to enter a big year in 2020/21. As Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer writes, the Hornets may have to move on from Monk next year if he doesn’t take a noticeable step forward after three up-and-down seasons.
  • Willy Hernangomez will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but he said today that he plans to remain in Charlotte for most or all of the summer, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Hernangomez added that he’d “love” to re-sign with the Hornets if possible.I love Charlotte, I love the group of guys we have,” he said, per Bonnell (Twitter links). “I want to be part of the young core that we have.”

Hornets Notes: Jordan, Cap Room, Roster, Rozier

The Hornets haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 and haven’t won a postseason series since returning to the NBA in 2004 as the Bobcats. However, as the team goes through another rebuild, general manager Mitch Kupchak says team owner Michael Jordan is “100 percent on board with what we’re doing,” according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

“We made a decision to take a certain approach for this summer and we knew what that would lead to (losing) this year. There are no surprises,” Kupchak said. “With our plan, it just takes time. You draft a kid who is 19 years old and it’s going to take two or three years for him to help us win. Also, we wanted to slowly dig our way out of some of the contracts we had. That takes a year or two.”

Some of those pricey veteran contracts Kupchak referred to are coming off the books this summer, and the Hornets project to have $28MM+ in cap room, as Bonnell details. As he has said in the past, Kupchak reiterated today that Charlotte doesn’t expect to be in the market for major free agents this offseason, but suggested the club will have several options for how to use that cap space.

“You can (trade for) a player from another team straight into cap room,” Kupchak said. “Or maybe (take on) a player who makes decent money (on an unwanted contract) and you get a draft pick.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Asked about the Hornets’ biggest needs going forward, Kupchak mentioned rim protection, rebounding, and “a wing that can score,” according to Bonnell. However, the Hornets’ GM said the team plans to take the best player available in the draft and figure out the fit.
  • The Hornets have until Saturday to add at least one player to get back to the NBA-mandated roster minimum of 14. As Bonnell relays, Kupchak said today that Charlotte will likely go the 10-day contract route, and could call up a G League player from the Greensboro Swarm. The Hornets want to “look for someone we can develop,” Kupchak added.
  • Rookies Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels will probably stick with the Hornets for the rest of the season rather than being sent to the G League, according to Kupchak (via Bonnell).
  • The Hornets have never been a taxpaying team during Michael Jordan‘s tenure as owner, but Kupchak insisted that increasing payroll won’t be an issue once the team is ready to contend. Even the tax won’t be an issue for him,” Kupchak said, per Rod Boone of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Devonte’ Graham‘s breakout season has meant that Terry Rozier‘s role isn’t exactly what he was expecting when he signed with the Hornets last summer. But that’s okay with Rozier, as Bonnell writes in a separate Observer article. “If I sit here and complain that, ‘Oh, I should be the point guard!’ or ‘I should always have the ball in my hand!’ nobody really cares,” Rozier said. “(Graham) has put himself on the radar. You can’t take any of that away from him or this team. I just try to adjust.”

L.A. Notes: Bryant, Kupchak, George, West

The Lakers returned to practice today for the first time since Kobe Bryant‘s death on Sunday, writes Greg Beacham of The Associated Press. The mood was reserved as players tried to move beyond the tragedy and focus on basketball. Some of them, including Anthony Davis, spent time looking at Bryant’s two retired numbers hanging in the rafters before practice began.

“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything,” said coach Frank Vogel, who was the only person to address the media after the workout. “We’ve always wanted to make him proud, and that’s not going to be any different now.”

The Lakers’ game against the Clippers last night was postponed to give the organization more time to deal with the tragedy. Instead, the team held an afternoon gathering where players and coaches shared stories and memories of Bryant. The meeting was “therapeutic and beneficial,” according to Vogel.

“It’s been something that has touched my family, being the father of daughters, and it’s been very emotional,” he said. “It’s something that brings us together. I’m around the people who were closest to Kobe throughout his time here, and it’s been just a deeply saddening time for all of us.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The franchise-altering trade that brought Bryant to the Lakers in 1996 nearly didn’t happen, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak, who served as assistant GM for the Lakers at the time, said Charlotte had second thoughts about going through with the deal. “I think we always felt that we’d get the deal done,” Kupchak said. “Certainly, history would have been a lot different, at least from a Lakers point-of-view. Kobe would have been great no matter where he was.”
  • Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard both spent time working out with Bryant at his Mamba Sports Academy and both credit him with helping to mold their careers, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “He was my Michael Jordan growing up as a SoCal kid,” George said after today’s practice. “He was what every kid wanted to be here. I started playing basketball because of Kobe.” 
  • Current Clippers consultant Jerry West said when Bryant was thinking of leaving the Lakers as a free agent in 2004, he warned him not to go across town and play for former owner Donald Sterling (video link from TNT).