Mitch Kupchak Addresses Coaching Search, Bridges and More

President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon for the first time since the Charlotte Hornets’ 2021-22 campaign ended last month, touching on a number of different topics ahead of what will be a very busy and pivotal offseason for the organization.

Perhaps the most significant area of discussion was the ongoing search for a new Head Coach after the franchise parted ways with James Borrego last month. Kupchak declined to elaborate on what specifically factored into the decision, but did say it was made for a “combination of reasons” and that informing Borrego of the team’s new direction was “probably the toughest conversation,” that he had ever had.

“The decision was made to seek out another voice,” he said. “Coach Borrego was great for four years. It’s tough to make these kinds of decisions and a lot goes into it. We just felt it was time to go to another voice and look for another coach to hopefully bring the same kind of improvement that Coach Borrego did.”

The process of finding Borrego’s replacement is pretty far underway, with about eight to ten candidates having done interviews already, many of which were conducted in person. While there is no definitive timetable for the hiring, Kupchak hopes to have somebody in place within the next two weeks and is “leaning” towards experience, although would-be first-time head coaches are being considered.   

“We’re pretty close to narrowing the group,” he explained. “[We need] somebody that will bring us to that next step. I don’t want to get to the point where we stick somewhere too long and don’t make that improvement that I think this team is ready to make. Next year we want to make a similar improvement [as we did this year]. We want to find that coach that allows us to make that improvement. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Another area Kupchak touched on was Miles Bridges’ impending restricted free agent status, meaning that the Hornets will reserve the right to match anything Bridges is potentially offered on the open market. Kupchak’s stance was pretty direct, when asked about the team’s leading scorer this past season. “Miles made a big jump,” he said. “I don’t think anybody expected that jump. Our intention is to keep Miles long term. He’s a big part of our future.”

Also, of note was Kupchak revealing that he had recently signed a multi-year extension to remain with the Hornets for the foreseeable future. At the moment, he and other members of the front office are in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, where dozens of prospects are working out in front of teams. Kupchak and the group will then head out to California for more evaluations at player pro days starting early next week.

Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery officially confirmed that the Hornets will have the 13th, 15th and 45th overall picks in next month’s NBA Draft, which is scheduled for June 23 in Brooklyn, NY. As a quick refresher, Charlotte got the rights to that 15th overall pick as part of the Devonte’ Graham sign-and-trade deal last summer with New Orleans. Originally lottery-protected, the selection conveyed to the Hornets following the Pelicans’ somewhat unexpected late-season surge into the playoffs.

“We’re still looking to inject talent into this team,” Kupchak said. “[Having multiple first-rounders] gives us a lot of options. Just the way New Orleans started the season (3-16), we thought for sure that pick was going to convert into two second-[rounders]. They made a run and got in. That awarded us that pick, which was a silver lining to the way our season ended. It’s currency. You can move up in the draft for a player, use it, trade back.”

While the Hornets’ organization is going through a transition phase at the moment, there is still plenty of positives to fall back on from this past season says Kupchak, with excitement and high expectations awaiting on the horizon.  

“Winning 43 games, that’s an accomplishment based on where we were two years ago. We went through a tough stretch where we lost nine of eleven and could have very easily continued south, but they recovered and finished the season really strong. LaMelo made the All-Star Game. Everybody got better and our record showed that. It’s a really great group of young players that are fun to watch. We want to build something where when we get into the playoffs, it’s not just a one-time thing. We want to get in and be there for several years.”