President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to the media Thursday afternoon for the first time since the Charlotte Hornets’ 2021-22 campaign ended last month, addressing a number of different subjects before which will be very busy and crucial. out of season for the organization.
Perhaps the biggest talking point 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 said it was made for a “combination of reasons” and that telling Borrego of the team’s new direction was “probably the most difficult conversation” he’s ever had.
“The decision was made to look for another voice,” he said. “Coach Borrego has been great for four years. It’s hard to make these kinds of decisions and it involves a lot of things. We just felt it was time to go to another voice and look for another coach to bring hopefully the same kind of improvement as coach Borrego.
The search process for Borrego’s replacement is quite advanced, with around eight to ten candidates having already gone through interviews, many of which have been conducted in person. Although there is no definitive timetable for hiring, Kupchak hopes to have someone in place within the next two weeks and is “leaning” towards experience, although potential first-time head coaches be considered.
“We are about to reduce the group,” he explained. “[We need] someone who will take us to that next step. I don’t want to get to the point where we stay 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 trainer who 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, which means the Hornets reserve the right to match whatever Bridges is potentially offered on the open market. Kupchak’s stance was quite straightforward, when asked about the team’s top scorer last season. “Miles took a big leap,” he said. “I don’t think anyone expected that jump. Our intention is to keep Miles for the long term. He is a big part of our future.
It should also be noted that Kupchak revealed that he recently signed a multi-year extension to stay with the Hornets for the foreseeable future. Right now, he and other members of the front office are in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, where dozens of prospects are practicing in front of teams. Kupchak and the group will then travel to California for further evaluations at Pro Players Days beginning early next week.
Tuesday’s NBA Draft lottery officially confirmed the Hornets will have the 13e15e and 45e overall selections in next month’s NBA draft, which is scheduled for June 23 in Brooklyn, NY. As a quick refresher, Charlotte secured the rights to this 15e overall pick in Devonte’ Graham’s sign-and-trade deal last summer with New Orleans. Originally lottery-protected, the selection was passed to the Hornets after the Pelicans’ somewhat unexpected late-season push into the playoffs.
“We’re always looking to inject talent into this team,” Kupchak said. “[Having multiple first-rounders] gives us a lot of options. The same way New Orleans started the season (3-16), we thought for sure this pick would turn around in two seconds-[rounders]. They raced and entered. It earned us that pick, which was a silver lining for how our season ended. It’s currency. You can go up in a player’s draft, use it, trade it.
While the Hornets organization is currently going through a transitional phase, there are still plenty of positives to look back on from last season, Kupchak says, with excitement and high expectations on the horizon.
“Winning 43 games is an achievement based on where we were two years ago. We went through a tough time where we lost nine out of eleven and we could have very easily continued down south, but they recovered. and finished the season very strong. LaMelo made the all-star game. Everyone improved and our record showed it. They’re a really good group of young players who are fun to watch. We want to build something where when we go into the playoffs, it’s not just a one-time thing. We want to come in and be there for several years.