HBO’s ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty‘ provides viewers with a look back at the LA Lakers basketball team of the 1980s and the meteoric heights of success they achieved under owner Jerry Buss. The show’s second season focuses on the period following the Lakers’ 1979-80 NBA Championship-winning season as they try to recreate the same fairytale story on the court. In the process, viewers are introduced to Mitch Kupchak, who comes into the fold during a turbulent time for the NBA franchise. If you are wondering when the Lakers signed Mitch Kupchak and where the former basketball player is now, here is everything you need to know!
When Did LA Lakers Sign Mitch Kupchak?
Mitchell “Mitch” Kupchak was born May 24, 1954, in Brentwood, New York. Kupchak started playing basketball for Brentwood High School in his hometown. He was a part of the gold medal-winning team at the 1976 Summer Olympics. Kupchak played as a Power Forward but could also be deployed as a Center. Following his success at the college level in the basketball program at the University of North Carolina, Kupchak was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the 1976 NBA Draft. Kupchak won the NBA Championship with the Bullets in 1978 and spent a total of four seasons with the franchise.
On July 23, 1981, Kupchak was signed by the LA Lakers. The Lakers traded Jim Chones and Brad Holland with a first-round 1983 draft pick and a second-round 1982 draft pick. Kupchak was a success with the Lakers, winning the NBA Championship with the team in his first season with the franchise. He played 26 games in the 1981-82 season, scoring an average of 14.3 points per game. However, Kupchak was ruled out for the rest of the season and the following season due to a knee injury. Kupchak returned to the roster in the 1983-84 season and helped the Lakers add another NBA Championship to their accolades during the 1984-85 season. However, Kupchak retired from professional basketball after the 1985–86 season, with a career average of 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Where Is Mitch Kupchak Now?
After the end of his playing career, Kupchak transitioned to a management career in basketball, continuing his association with the Lakers. Kupchak was appointed as the Assistant General Manager of the LA Lakers. He was an apprentice under Jerry West, who served as the franchise’s General Manager for most of the “Showtime” era. Kupchak completed his MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 1987. He became the full-time General Manager of the LA Lakers when West resigned as Vice President of Basketball Operations in 2000. Kupchak served as the General Manager of the LA Lakers from 2000 to 2017, winning four more NBA Championships with the team in that duration. However, Kupchak’s nearly three-decades-long association with the Lakers ended in 2017.
Kupchak was fired as general manager of the Lakers on February 21, 2017. His former teammate, Magic Johnson, replaced Kupchak as the Head of Basketball Operations for the Lakers. Kupchak was subsequently appointed as the President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets. He continues to serve in the role till the present day. Kupchak married Claire Kupchak in 1992. The couple had a daughter, Alina Claire Kupchak, who tragically passed away on January 5, 2015, after battling a long illness. The couple also has a son, Maxwell Kupchak, who played basketball at UC Santa Barbara. After thirty years of marriage, Kupchak and his wife reportedly separated in October 2022. Kupchak currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Actor Matthew Barnes (‘Atlanta‘) plays a fictionalized version of Kupchak in the HBO series ‘Winning Time.’ However, Kupchak has criticized the show’s profanity-filled portrayal of his mentor Jerry West.