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Michael Jordan Is Looking to the Past to Update the Charlotte Front Office

The Hornets are reportedly aiming to replace GM Rich Cho with Mitch Kupchak and Buzz Peterson in the offseason

Mitch Kupchak speaking to the media
Mitch Kupchak
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Story: The Charlotte Hornets will not re-sign general manager Rich Cho, whose contract expires this season, the team announced Tuesday. ESPN reported that the franchise is expected to pursue former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who would partner with assistant GM Buzz Peterson to run the front office. (ESPN also reported that, thus far, Charlotte hasn’t contacted Kupchak about the job.)

The Importance: Cho, who has been with Charlotte since 2011, did not make any significant moves before the trade deadline, despite star point guard Kemba Walker’s involvement in multiple trade rumors.

Kupchak, on the other hand, is a bit of a throwback. The longtime Lakers GM officially began his tenure in 2000, after serving under Jerry West since 1986, and was let go in 2017 by owner Jeanie Buss. Kupchak won four titles during his time with the Lakers, but the Lakers failed to reach the postseason in each of his last four seasons, marking the longest drought in franchise history (one that is still ongoing).

The latter end of Kupchak’s time with the Lakers was a laundry list of poor decision-making. After Phil Jackson’s departure in 2011, Kupchak hired Mike Brown, who lasted just more than one season with the team; Mike D’Antoni, a pace-and-space savior given a roster with Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant that was antithetical to his strategies; and living meme Byron Scott. Kupchak signed Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng (both on the wrong side of 30) two summers ago to four-year deals worth $136 million.

The Takeaway: Peterson was Michael Jordan’s roommate at the University of North Carolina. They won the 1982 NCAA title together. Jordan was the best man at Peterson’s wedding. Kupchak also went to UNC, where he won the ACC Player of the Year and was an All-American.

If these moves happen as planned, there will be a running UNC tailgate in the Charlotte front office. But hiring your friend for a high-stakes position is not a good idea, and neither is bringing on a flashy, past-his-prime GM who is eager to prove he still has a magic touch.