Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss made an extremely tough decision in the middle of last season when she decided to part ways with both her brother Jim, who was the executive vice president of basketball operations at the time, and long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak.
The move came at an interesting time as it was just a week before the trade deadline and the front office duo was in the midst of discussing a possible DeMarcus Cousins trade with the Sacramento Kings.
But Jeanie replaced them with former Laker great Magic Johnson to be the president of basketball operations and then hired Kobe Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka as general manager a few weeks later.
Kupchak recently appeared on the Woj Pod with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and discussed his firing. While he didn’t know the exact reason for it, he had some speculation:
“Why did it happen (us getting fired) when it did? I’m not sure. It was a week before the trade deadline. Maybe they just felt, and I haven’t spoken to anybody since, so I don’t know what their thought process was so I’m really clearly just speculating, maybe they just said ‘well, if we’re going to make a change at the end of the year, then why don’t we do it now so we can control how the trade deadline goes.’ That’s the only thing I can think of.”
Kupchak added that he knows it was Jeanie’s decision, but he doesn’t hold any grudges against anyone in the Lakers organization:
“I don’t hold a grudge against anybody. Clearly, Jeanie made this decision. She has complete authority to run that organization the way she wants to run it. Once again, how really upset can I be after 36 years with an organization like that, and they treated me very well.”
While Kupchak may not know the reason he was fired, the fact is that he made a lot of poor decisions in the final few years of his tenure, including trading multiple first round picks for an aging Steve Nash and signing both Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to big-money, long-term contracts in 2016.
Kupchak did many great things in his 36 years with the organization though, including the team winning five championships with him as general manager, so he should be commended for his work even if it didn’t work out at the end.