General manager, a frequent target of criticism from fans, media and even his star player, just rolled with the punches, until one great trade revitalized the team and his reputation.
L.A. Times: The first time Mitch Kupchak was mentioned for one of the most glamorous jobs in sports, general manager of the Lakers, he was standing at a urinal.
An All-American at North Carolina who became a starting power forward for the Showtime-era Lakers, Kupchak’s career was cut short after an injury in 1981 that shattered his left knee. After a limited comeback, Kupchak agreed to move over to the front office in 1986 to serve an apprenticeship under then-general manager Jerry West.
“About the second week I was there, I’m standing in the bathroom at the Forum . . . when the door flies open and Jerry walks in, face red, smoke shooting out of his ears, every other word a four-letter word,” Kupchak recalled recently. “He’s ranting and raving, talking to me, but not really talking to me even though there’s nobody else in there. I’m petrified.
” ‘You know, I’ve had enough. I’m telling Dr. [Jerry] Buss I’m quitting and I’m recommending you for the job.’ And then he walked out,” Kupchak recalled West saying. “I’m still . . . staring straight ahead at the wall, saying to myself, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for this job.’ ”
Kupchak need not have worried. West wasn’t going anywhere for 14 years, although he would periodically threaten to bolt as his job anxiety continued to rise.