Cho’s new Bobcats GM

By Off the wire by Rich Bonnell
Updated: June 15, 2011
Rich Cho

Rich Cho

CHARLOTTE, NCNew Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rich Cho knows exactly what he’s getting into: It’s Seattle and 2007, all over again.

Back then, Cho was a mid-level executive with the SuperSonics, an aging NBA team winning 30-some games a season. That led to the painful steps of trading Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics and allowing Rashard Lewis to leave for the Orlando Magic during free agency.

It took three more seasons and a move of the Seattle franchise to Oklahoma City.

But that team, now called the Thunder, was collecting extra draft picks and developing young talent. Now, the Thunder’s future is bright for a long time.

That’s the road map Cho takes to the Bobcats, as the No.2 basketball executive in the franchise. He’ll work under Rod Higgins, who now has the title of president of basketball operations.

“One of the worst things you can do in this league is be a middle-of-the-road team – in the playoffs one year, out the next,” Cho said Tuesday at an introductory news conference at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“One of the tough things about a middle-of-the-road team is you never get really good draft picks,” he said. “That makes it hard to have sustained success. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward.”

Intentionally or not, Cho was describing the Bobcats’ recent history. They made their first playoff appearance in 2010, only to be swept by the Orlando Magic.

The hangover from that brief postseason was an overpriced roster built around Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson.

Now Wallace is gone – ironically enough, Cho acquired him during February in his one season as general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. In his new job (Cho was fired by the Blazers in May) he is following the lead of his former boss, Thunder general manager Sam Presti.

“I’m a big proponent of accumulating assets,” Cho said. “That’s how we did it in Oklahoma City.”

Cho said he would have made that Wallace trade if he was working for the Bobcats, too. Painful as it is to lose an iconic player, Cho says the two first-round picks the Bobcats will get from the Blazers are key to refurbishing a roster in need of shooting, athleticism and big men.

Higgins said there’s been a hole in basketball operations since Buzz Peterson resigned as player personnel director two years ago to return to college coaching. Higgins saw Cho as a good fit and knew he wouldn’t be unemployed long. So within two days of Cho losing his job, Higgins was making his case to team owner Michael Jordan.

In one key way, Higgins and Cho are nothing like each other. In a different way, Higgins says they’re very alike.

“He’s a numbers guy. … I’m more the traditional basketball guy,” Higgins said of Cho’s backgrounds as an engineer and an attorney.

It’s their personalities that Higgins finds similar.

“He works well with people,” Higgins said. “He won’t let ego get in the way of good work.”

Cho said he believes in a free exchange of ideas – debate is good – so long as it doesn’t become confrontational.

“One of my mantras is ‘Agree, disagree, then align,’ ” Cho said of his style.