When Luke Walton was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 2003 Draft, the team’s general manager was Mitch Kupchak. When Walton was hired by the Lakers in April 2016 as head coach, Kupchak held the same title.
And of course, it was Kupchak who was the general manager when the Lakers re-signed Walton to a six-year, $30 million contract in July 2007. But while Walton was in his first season as coach, owner Jeanie Buss acted swiftly to fire Kupchak and her brother, Jim Buss, who was the head of basketball operations.
That Walton, Jim and Kupchak weren’t able to succeed together doesn’t sour the second-year coach’s view of the former general manager. “I think it’s great,” Walton said of the Charlotte Hornets hiring of Kupchak to lead their front office.
“I loved the time I spent with Mitch as a player and when he brought me down here as a coach. I’m happy he got another opportunity. I’m sure he’ll do a great job over there. I wish him the best of luck.”
Kupchak’s reputation took a considerable hit because of contracts given to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who both failed to meet expectations. Current Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka attached D’Angelo Russell to Mozgov in order to shed his salary in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets last June.
But fact of the matter is Kupchak was also the architect of several championship-winning teams during his 30 years with the Lakers, which included nearly two decades as GM. His trades for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were lauded at the time, and had injuries not ravaged that season’s roster, Kupchak may have very well had another feather in his cap.
In becoming president of basketball operations and general manager of the Hornets, he reunites with Howard, who has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in his first season with Charlotte.