Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lakers-Phil, Mitch and the Parade

Yahoo Sports:

The champagne was still flowing when Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was hit with questions regarding the return of coach Phil Jackson, according to the the New York Times.

Kupchak readily acknowledged the speculation about his coach. Jackson, who turns 64 in September, has been through hip surgeries, an angioplasty, gout and various other maladies since he started expanding his ring collection in Los Angeles.

People around the team have reasonably wondered whether Jackson, with his 10th ring secured, might leave the stress behind and walk off into the proverbial sunset, the Times reported.

"It seems to make sense, doesn't it?" Kupchak said. "I don't think he'll do it, but it seems to make sense."

Jackson has one year and $12 million left on his contract. He intends to honor it, according to his longtime agent and friend, Todd Musburger.

"I don't think he's given any thought to not completely fulfilling his contract," Musburger said, nor does the 10th title change anything. "I don't think he's in it for the gold ring. The gold ring is clearly important, but I don't think that's what drives him."

As for Kupchak, kudos for the man who built these champions:

From Orlando, Fla. -- The cameras didn't catch him. The champagne never touched him. The team partied far from him.

Late Sunday night here in Amway Arena's loud visitors' locker room, a tall, paternal figure stood with his family in a distant corner.

He watched the Lakers pour champagne on one another with the satisfied smile of a father watching his children play in a sandbox.

He listened to the Lakers howling and screeching with the satisfied silence of a father who knows there is nothing he needs to say.

The Lakers acted as if they didn't need him.

The Lakers know they would not be NBA champions without him.

Another night, another title for Mitch Kupchak, the unassuming architect of a team that has brought him three rings yet few plaudits in his years as general manager.

"I think this is a great triumph for the Buss family," Kupchak said Sunday, deflecting credit the way Lamar Odom deflects in-bounds passes.

Which is why right here, right now, the record needs to be set straight and a perception needs to be fixed:

Mitch Kupchak, more than anyone else in the organization past or present, is responsible for building the 2009 champions.

"I didn't bring all these guys in," he said quickly, emphatically. "I did not bring all these guys in."

He paused.

"There was one guy who has been here since I became general manager, and he is a pretty good player," he said.

See? There he goes again. Kupchak not only gives all credit to the Buss family, but he also makes sure we don't forget it was Jerry West who made the draft-day trade that allowed them to acquire a certain Finals MVP.

OK, fine, we'll try again.

Mitch Kupchak is responsible for building the 2009 champions except for Kobe Bryant.

"Yes, but it's not one person doing this, it's an organization working together," Kupchak said.

Yes, but in his 22nd year as a club executive and ninth as general manager, it is an organization that has slowly been built in his image.

Solid, smart, with a willingness to work selflessly and later share the credit.

Everyone still wants to thank West, but c'mon, nine years is nine years. Kupchak not only built the team, but he guided it through one of its roughest patches. (Read entire article)
Related Links:

With the Dodgers presently being a favorite to get the Fall Classic, the city is abuzz with Randy Newman's co-opted sports anthem

Route map for the Lakers parade today down Figueroa

LA Times commemorative championship section with pics and video

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