Hornets ink Mitch Kupchak to multiyear extension

The move keeps the general manager in charge of the team’s search for a new head coach

Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak, pictured last July, signed a multiyear contract extension to remain in Charlotte. (Nell Redmond / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — The architect of the current Charlotte Hornets will be around for the next few seasons. General manager Mitch Kupchak, who also serves as the Hornets’ president of basketball operations, signed a multiyear contract extension to stay in Charlotte, the team announced on May 19. His original contract from April 2018 was set to expire this summer.

After four full seasons with the Hornets, Kupchak, 67, is the man responsible for every name on Charlotte’s roster. Per team policy, his new contract’s terms were not disclosed.

“Mitch has done a great job leading our organization,” Hornets owner Michael Jordan said in a press release. “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.”

Kupchak met with the media following the news of his extension to provide an update on the Hornets’ ongoing head coaching search, including explaining the dismissal of James Borrego.

“I just felt, at the end of the day, it was time — and I hate to use the expression — to go into another direction,” he said. “It was just time to go to another voice and look for another coach to hopefully bring us the same kind of improvement that Coach Borrego did the first three years.”

Among the list of candidates Charlotte interviewed, Mike D’Antoni, Terry Stotts, recently fired coach Frank Vogel, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are the rumored frontrunners for the position.

“We’re pretty close to narrowing the group,” Kupchak said, adding that he had just conducted nine interviews that day. “I can’t give a timeline, but certainly you’d hope to have a coach in place by the draft. I would hope that it would be much sooner. I can’t imagine it would be within the next week or so, but somewhere — I don’t know — two weeks and certainly hopefully before the draft.”

Kupchak said experience plays a role in the decision-making process, but the franchise is not opposed to hiring a first-time head coach. He also said he has not discussed the coaching search with any of the players on the roster.

Kupchak will also make the final call on who to select with the 13th and 15th overall picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. After coming short of reaching the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after losing in the play-in round, the Hornets are hopeful the two picks can help them reach the postseason for the first time since 2016. Charlotte hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2002 season.

“What I’d like to do with this team is get us into the playoffs,” Kupchak said. Wouldn’t it be great to win a round, right? … So you’ve got to be careful that you don’t make moves to try to mosey along the progress quicker than is realistic.”

During his time in Charlotte, Kupchak has made three defining moves that have transformed the Hornets’ roster: drafting 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, acquiring the rights to Miles Bridges in a draft-night trade, and completing a sign-and-trade for Terry Rozier that led to fan favorite Kemba Walker’s departure.

Before joining the Hornets, Kupchak had more than three decades of experience as a front office executive with the Los Angeles Lakers. Following his NBA playing career with Washington and Los Angeles, he worked in the Lakers’ front office before serving as general manager for 17 seasons, winning four NBA championships and six Western Conference titles.