Curtis Polk

Hornets’ Polk Talks HC Search, Kupchak, Outlook

Hornets vice chairman and managing partner Curtis Polk is described by Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer as Michael Jordan‘s “eyes in Charlotte” for both the basketball and business side of the franchise. That makes him an important figure in the Hornets’ management hierarchy.

So, with new head of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak not saying much publicly about the club’s ongoing head coaching search, Bonnell went to Polk to get a sense of what the Hornets are looking for in their next coach. Polk also weighed in on a few other topics, so let’s round up a few highlights…

On the most important trait for the Hornets’ coaching hire:

In today’s NBA, one of the important things, particularly in a market like Charlotte (which can’t live off free agency), is player development: getting those draft picks and developing them.

“It’s an 11-month business. Maybe at some point if you’re out of the playoffs, or after free agency, you have sort of a slow month, but this is 11 months of high-intensity work where you have to pay attention to what your players are doing in the offseason. Make sure they are following a training program so that they don’t come into training camp out of shape or picked up any bad habits. It’s really something that has become a premium: What are the players doing in the offseason?

“That is going to become a very important quality to our coaching hires – that they came from an environment where there was a big premium on player development, and where they’re able to articulate to Mitch what sort of program they plan to put in place with us.”

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

On whether Kupchak has full autonomy to make personnel decisions:

Mitch is our guy. Mitch has the authority to make all the decisions relative to basketball. When I say decisions, he’ll go through a process, just like he is right now with the coach. He will bring to ownership the decision he wants to make. But for the most part, I can’t imagine we’ll disagree with the things he recommends, based on the fact that he’s doing quite a bit of homework and we keep abreast of the process.

“I think Michael and I fully want to support his decisions. We might ask him some questions, but for the most part, it’s for him to put together a plan to get us back on track.”

On how close the Hornets are to where they need to be:

I think a change here or there, maybe looking at how we get balanced offensively and defensively again with our new coaching staff. We won 36 games. There were a lot of close games that we lost. I feel like (by) putting a priority on developing young talent – that’s really key for us in developing a pipeline of players who after a few years can be significant contributors – I think we’ll be fine.”

On whether the Hornets would ever go through a rebuild similar to the Sixers’ “Process”:

I think there are times when everybody goes through some version of that. That seems to be an extreme example. I can’t think of another one that extreme. In 2011, we went through our own little version of that for two seasons. It’s more of a (matter of) degrees. Right now, Mitch is still getting his arms around everything and we still don’t have a coach in place. I’m hopeful we won’t have to make dramatic changes to get this thing back on track.”

Southeast Notes: Hernangomez, Mahinmi, Charlotte’s GM Search

Midseason Hornets acquisition Willy Hernangomez isn’t familiar enough with Charlotte’s way of business to see more action than the 5.3 minutes per game he’s been seeing since coming over from New York, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes.

Head coach Steve Clifford says that it’s not fair for either Hernangomez or the rest of his teammates to have him thrown him out on the court before he’s able to mesh with the rest of the players.

[He] will play some, but it’s hard for the other guys [to function well] when he’s not up to speed,” Clifford said. “With younger players, you don’t just throw guys in there just to watch them. It’s not fair for them, and it’s not fair for other guys on the floor. The team has to be organized, and we’re not as organized with him.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After pursuing a larger role (and the inherently larger contract), Jonathon Simmons is getting his first taste of losing basketball. That’s made for a bit of an adjustment, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. “I think he’s definitely tried to rally guys at certain times and make sure that we’re all understanding that it’s not acceptable to lose at the rate we’ve lost this year,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “But, at the same time, he hasn’t short-circuited, either. Sometimes guys short-circuit when they haven’t experienced losing like this. He’s been a team guy.
  • The Wizards will still owe Ian Mahinmi north of $31MM after this season, a troubling thought considering the way his usage has been trending over the course of the year. Mahimni’s playing time this season is down from last year and, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes, he logged the first DNP-CD of the season over the weekend.
  • The Hornets hope that their search for a general manager wraps up in early April, Katherine Peralta of The Charlotte Observer writes. “We’re going through an exhaustive process,” recently promoted team managing partner Curtis Polk said. “We started with quite a few names that we collected and put together a spreadsheet on these people and have been narrowing it down.

Latest On Hornets’ Front Office Changes

The Hornets issued a press release today confirming that general manager Rich Cho won’t have his contract extended beyond this season. The club will begin its search for a new GM immediately, according to that announcement.

Speaking to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk said that Cho asked the team over the weekend if he could expect an extension on his current contract. Once Polk and controlling owner Michael Jordan decided that wouldn’t happen, the club “made a clean break” from Cho.

That means, as Bonnell writes, that assistant GM Buzz Peterson will run Charlotte’s front office on an interim basis. However, Polk indicated that Peterson likely won’t be considered for the permanent GM job, as he expects that person to come from outside the organization.

Here’s more from Bonnell and Polk:

  • According to Polk, the Hornets’ goal is to have a new GM in place by the end of the season. He expects about four to six candidates to receive interviews, though he acknowledged that some potential targets may not be available until their teams finish their respective seasons. “We’d like it to be as soon as possible, but we don’t want to handicap our choices,” Polk said.
  • Asked specifically about Mitch Kupchak, who is rumored to be Charlotte’s top target, Polk said that the former Lakers GM is “a good name,” but cautioned that he’s not sure what Kupchak’s level of interest in the position would be.
  • Polk said that networking skills and an ability to adapt to the changing times are two important traits for the next Hornets GM. “We need a strong leader who is well respected in the organization and within the industry,” Polk said. “Someone who can build on the tools Rich (provided): Analytics and also be a great evaluator (of talent). … The way basketball has evolved, we have to be careful about (someone who is) too set in their ways. We need to experiment in some regards, (not be saddled with) how basketball was eight years ago or 10 years ago.”

Hornets Rumors: Batum, Zeller, Cho, Clifford

The Celtics offered the Hornets a package that included four first-round picks to entice Charlotte to give up the No. 9 pick last month, sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Boston was willing to give up its own pick at No. 16, the No. 15 pick that they would tentatively have acquired from the Hawks, an unprotected future first-round pick from the Nets (presumably the 2018 pick Brooklyn owes Boston) and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or the Timberwolves (presumably the ones those teams already owe Boston), as Lowe details. Some front office members in Charlotte liked the idea, but owner Michael Jordan preferred to roll with Frank Kaminsky, whom the Hornets took at No. 9, several sources said to Lowe. The Grantland scribe delves into the implications of that choice, and he touches on more, too, as we highlight amid the latest from the Queen City:

  • Nicolas Batum‘s camp has been talking about how much he’d like to play with the Raptors, given the international appeal of Toronto, several league sources tell Lowe. The native of France, whom the Hornets traded for last month, is set to become a free agent after this coming season.
  • The Hornets have been willing to talk about Cody Zeller when they discuss trades with other teams, sources tell Lowe. That jibes with a report from shortly before the draft that Charlotte was aggressively shopping the big man.
  • GM Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford have had a chilly relationship since last year’s departure of president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, sources familiar with the situation tell Lowe, yet Cho, Clifford and Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk all downplay the notion. “I would say it’s a good relationship now,” Cho says. “I value his input. We’re not always going to agree, but I wouldn’t expect to.”
  • Polk, Jordan, Cho, assistant GM Chad Buchanan and director of player personnel Larry Jordan, Michael’s brother, are the primary decision-makers for the team, according to Lowe.
  • Charlotte shopped Noah Vonleh and the No. 9 pick in a package to try to move up in the draft before abandoning that pursuit and trading Vonleh in the Batum deal, as Lowe details.
  • The Hornets had interest in Rodney Hood going into last year’s draft, Lowe hears. Hood wound up going at No. 23 to Utah, and Charlotte had an opportunity to move down into a spot where it might have nabbed him instead of Vonleh, as Lowe explains.
  • Hornets brass likes Elliot Williams, whom the Hornets have reportedly agreed to sign to a camp deal, but they see him as an insurance policy and don’t view him as a replacement for backup point guard Brian Roberts, reports Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter links).