There has been a lot of change in the Los Angeles Lakers organization over the last few years. The death of longtime owner Jerry Buss, the constant changing of personnel and the very unfamiliar losing season they are currently going through. But one constant that has not changed is the General Manager position and the man who fills it Mitch Kupchak. Kupchak has been with the organization as a player and front office member since 1986 and now the team has extended his contract so he will continue to be with the team, however the details of the deal have not been released.
Mitch Kupchak began his career as a player coming into the NBA out of the University of North Carolina as the 13th overall pick to the Washington Bullets. After spending five seasons with the Bullets and winning an NBA title in 1978 he was signed by the Lakers in 1981. The signing was actually Magic Johnson’s idea and he was the one who urged owner Jerry Buss to sign Kupchak. He went on to help the Lakers win two titles in 1982 and 1985 and has never left the organization since.
Unlike other players who do not truly have a plan for their post basketball lives Mitch Kupchak was prepared and started to work with the front office personnel of the Lakers before he even retired as a player. Once he retired he took the job as assistant GM under Jerry West and later was promoted to GM when West was moved up to Vice President of basketball operations. It is believed that it was not until 2000, when West left for the Grizzlies, that he truly had the authority to run the team the way he saw fit.
Since 2000 the Lakers have been arguably the best team in the NBA and a lot of that credit should go to Kupchak. Because during that span their have numerous high-profile players like Kobe and Shaq and probably the biggest name in coaching in Phil Jackson, a lot of the credit for the Lakers success has not been given to Kupchak. While the coach and players obviously play a vital role in the team’s success the GM is the one who puts all those pieces together and should also be given his due credit. Since 2000 the Lakers have won five championships and have also been to two more finals, which they lost to the Pistons and Celtics. This was all done while having to break up one of the greatest duos in NBA history in Shaq and Kobe who were unable to play with each other after winning three titles together.
Having all that success while having to endure a rebuilding era from 2005-2007 is quite impressive and now the Lakers are hoping Kupchak can guide them through another rebuilding project. This will be an extremely tough task considering the dire situation the team is currently in, this season is the worst the team has endured since moving from Minnesota to Los Angeles. With an aging Kobe Bryant and a very mediocre roster Kupchak will have to hit the free agency market hard this coming offseason. One asset that the Lakers have that they are not accustomed to is a very high pick in the upcoming draft. With this coming draft being one of the deepest in recent memory their pick will surely be expected to contribute immediately.
Mitch Kupchak has now been extended as the Lakers General Manager and will have a tough task ahead of him to get the team back to championship contention. He has rebuilt before but during that period he had the luxury of Kobe Bryant being in hi prime, now it will be tougher considering Kobe is now on the back-end of his career. If anyone is up to the task it is Kupchak and the Lakers fans will be expecting him to turn it around very quickly.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius