Cover Story: Front office shakeup

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A front-office shakeup for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Michael Jordan and company are hoping a new GM can take them to new heights.

They just hired a new general manager - a real numbers guy.

He's Rich Cho, a lawyer, an engineer, with experience in quantitative analysis.

He's not your typical front-office NBA big wig.  Soft spoken, a sharp mind and a good thing too.. considering the NBA right now is heading down the same path as the NFL.

"I do want to spend.. but I want to move from the 8th spot to the top 3 spot."

That was Bobcats owner Michael Jordan two months ago committing to opening up his wallet to put a better team on the court.

Tuesday, a step toward that - bringing in Rich Cho as new general manager.

"I think I bring a different perspective on players and building teams," he told us.

Cho was the G.M. of the Portland Trail Blazers up until three weeks ago when he was abruptly fired.  He helped engineer the controversial trade last February that sent Gerald Wallace one of the original Bobcats, most popular and the team's lone all-star player.. out west to Portland.

In exchange the Bobcats got two first round draft picks and room under the salary cap.

Cho is no ordinary NBA executive.  He started his career as an engineer for aircraft-maker Boeing.

He then decided then to go to law school - graduating from Pepperdine University while working as an intern with the Seattle SuperSonics.

He stayed with the Sonics when they moved to Oklahoma City.  Then went back west when Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen brought him in to run Allen's NBA franchise, the Portland Trail Blazers.

Allen fired him three weeks ago Monday, insiders say it was a "chemistry" issue between the two.

"It was nice to spend some time with my family but I love to work.. working is part of the fabric of who I am," said Cho.

Cho came to the United States was he was 3 when his family immigrated from Burma.  When he took the helm at Portland last season he became the first Asian-American general manager in American major league sports.

He'll have his work cut out for him here:  The NBA Draft is June 23rd.  The Bobcats will pick 9th, 19th and 39th.

Then at the end of the month the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires.  It's expected like the NFL there will be a lockout.

It will all test Cho's experience in quantitative analysis.  "I think what that helps is it brings a problem solving approach to a lot of different issues. I like to look at different angles on things and looking at both sides of the equation. And I'm excited to be here," he said.

So Rich Cho moves in to the G.M. spot.  Current general manager Rod Higgins who's been with the team four years moves up to President of Basketball Operations.

Cho told us the three things the Bobcats need right away are shooting, athleticism and some size..

They finished 14 games below .500 this past season.  A year earlier the Cats went to the playoffs and posted their first winning season in franchise history.

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