Mitch Kupchak has been with the Lakers front office for over twenty years, first as an assistant GM before becoming head GM in 2000. During his tenure the Lakers have appeared in seven Finals, winning five championships.
To say the least, Kupchak hasn’t faced much adversity in his 14 years as a general manager. However, the Lakers just finished their worst season in the franchise’s history since moving to Los Angeles and missed the playoffs for just the sixth time.
Still, Kupchak says he has faced worse during his tenure as general manager, according to Fox Sports writer Rahshaun Haylock:
Lakers general manager doesn’t equate it to the most difficult season he’s endured in his 14 seasons on the job.
“It wasn’t,” Kupchak said.
According to Kupchak, he believes the 2004-05 season was the most difficult, the season after he traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant:
“(2004-05) was a tough year,” Kupchack said. “That was a trying year.”
Although the Lakers suffered through one of the worst seasons in their history during this past year, the 04-05 season offered a widely different set of obstacles. The Lakers had just been shocked by the Detroit Pistons, losing 4-1 in the 2004 Finals leading to drastic change within the organization. Along with the retirement of Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal forced a trade out of Los Angeles to Miami, and legendary coach Phil Jackson was let go.
New coach, Rudy Tomjanovich didn’t make it through the season and the Lakers missed the playoffs. However, the Lakers were back in the Finals just three years later after Kupchak brought Pau Gasol in at the 2008 trade deadline.
This past season had its own issues and Kupchak puts most of the blame on the constant injuries that plagued the roster. The Lakers missed the most games with injuries by a staggering number and were without their All-Star Kobe Bryant for all but six games.
Both seasons have proven to be a hiccup in Kupchak’s success as he has helped the Lakers franchise maintain its greatness throughout his duration as GM. With ample cap space and the highest draft pick the franchise has possessed since drafting James Worthy, Kupchak will have the ability to turn around the team once again.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak On NBA Draft, No. 1 Pick And Trading The Pick