When is Mitch Kupchak gonna get some respect? He is the General Manager of one of the most prestigious sports franchises in all the world. Under his term the Los Angeles Lakers have won four rings, two of which came after rebuilding the team around Kobe Bryant.
In 2000, Kupchak was thrust into the spotlight after his mentor and Laker immortal Jerry West resigned after almost two decades as GM. Normally we wouldn’t count Mitch’s first two rings, as it was basically the team that Jerry built. But with all the Kobe-Shaq drama and the dominating presence of Jeannie‘s BF Phil Jackson, he deserves a purple (n’ gold) heart for his duties.
Kupchak kept the ship steady to complete that three-peat and the team got to another NBA Finals in 2004. Okay, so he did once sign Isaiah Rider back in the day, but hey nobody’s perfect. After missing the playoffs in 2005, the Lakers returned to the Finals in just three short years….now that’s impressive peeps. There are some teams out there that’ve been re-building since Paula Abdul was dancing courtside at the Forum….or as the immortal ‘Golden Throat’ Chick Hearn would say: “since Hector was a pup.” The trade for Pau Gasol a few years back stands out as probably Mitch’s crowning moment, and it definitely was a coup. But it’s not always the moves you make, but the ones you don’t make. The summer prior to getting Gasol, the Lakers were licking their wounds from yet another playoff defeat to Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. This prompted supernova Kobe Bryant to go on a rant at an Orange County parking lot. All we saw that summer on TV was video of Bryant venting that the team didn’t get guard Jason Kidd when all it would’ve taken was parting ways with Andrew Bynum. Fast forward to today and Bynum is clearly the team’s future (Roland Lazenby and myself have already proclaimed this online). Had Mitch succumb to the pressure back then from his star player (and from the media), the Lakers today would be a team with two aging guards and no legitimate center. Mind you, the recent back-to-back championship run came against the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics, two teams with serious inside presence. The Game 7 victory against Boston in 2010 was a brawl of a game, won on the boards and in the paint. Without Drew these rings would’ve been in serious doubt.
Probably more impressive is the way Mitch carries himself in public and in front of the media. I swear the guy never sweats. His face stays calm no matter how the team played last game. In L.A. the media is always ready to pounce on him and the fans are spoiled by decades of winning. But through it all Mitch stays even keel and never waivers from the big picture. Even when Jerry Buss‘s son Jim, the future boss of the Lakers, tries to assert himself Kup takes it in stride and continues to, as Eric Spoelstra says, “S-t-a-y T-h-e C-o-u-r-se.”
Mitch Kupchak is the calm in the eye of a media storm out in Los Angeles. Wonder how he does it?? it’s simple…..When asked about Ron Artest recently he replied: “I’m an advocate of World Peace.”
Nice play, big man.