Mitch Kupchak has a long, deserving resume as it is, but he made it very clear two weeks ago why he checks in at #8 on our countdown. Kupchak is where the direction of the Lakers begins and ends, and unfortunately for Mike Brown, Kupchak can’t actually step on the court and win games too.
In his press conference announcing that he fired Mike Brown, Kupchak alluded that the decision was made by 3 people, himself, Jim Buss and a mystery 3rd person. Whether that’s Jerry, Jeanie, or Kobe is unlikely and unconfirmed. What is confirmed is that Mitch Kupchak is the only person in the Lakers organization with any credibility to make those decisions. But at some point if they don’t start going the Lakers favor, he is also going to take responsibility for those decisions.
You get credibility when you win 2 NBA championships as a GM, and 2 as a player despite knee problems ending a bright career. But there is no other person in the Lakers organization with the credibility to disrupt him—that means you Jim and Kobe.
- Unlike his father who is not only beloved by players, coaches, and fans, but extremely successful on the business and personnel ends of the Lakers, Jim Buss has been meddlesome and unproven as a primary decision maker and owner of the Lakers.
- Kobe is the face of the Lakers, and with five rings there isn’t much he can do wrong. Decisions have to be run by Kobe. But once Kobe starts jacking up 30 shots a game you start to hear the knock on Kobe–no one trusts Kobe to see the big picture past his own interests.
- Magic has credibility, but he doesn’t have a say since he no longer is a part owner, his opinion is heard nightly on ESPN, and his interests are tied up in businesses all over, most notably the Dodgers.
- And the coach doesn’t have any credibility. It’s Mike D’Antoni today, but who knows who it will be tomorrow.
A knock on Mitch Kupchak’s resume is that no coach he has picked has panned out. It’s difficult to sign Phil Jackson and big name players, and he’s been tremendously successful at that. Other than Phil Jackson who is a no brainer, if coaching decisions is his prerogative, he hasn’t demonstrated any success at it.
Mitch Kupchak got the job when Jerry West got bored of winning in the same position in LA. West is one of the most successful front office personnel in league history to complement his Hall of Fame playing career, moved to Memphis in 2000 and experienced a much more average level of success compared to the rest of the league. And earlty on Kupchak faced plenty of criticism before he traded for Pau Gasol. But the outrageously lopsided deal which sent Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, and Aaron McKie to Memphis could be credited much more to West helping his old team and Assistant General Manager than Kupchak. The Lakers won back to back titles, and went to the finals 3 years in a row following it. And Mitch Kupchak has made big changes subtracting the injured Andrew Bynum, and adding Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Ron Artest, and Metta World Peace.
The Lakers are Los Angeles, sorry Dodgers and Kings, and any prospective NFL team. And Mitch Kupchak currently decides who is on the court and who stays on the court. Jerry Buss’ role is in question due to health reasons. There is no doubt he is the head honcho of Los Lakers if he is healthy. And Phil Jackson is in Montana laughing at the dysfunction of the Lakers. So Mitch Kupchak is up at the bow steering the Lakers ship, a taller and clean cut Captain Jack Sparrow looking at his compass that leads to somewhere–but no one knows where. But if Kupchak’s decisions don’t fall into place, he will surely be mutinied for his responsibility.