Decatur grad, Rich Cho, hired as the Charlotte Bobcats' new general manager
By CASEY OLSON
Federal Way Mirror Sports editor
June 15, 2011 · Updated 3:14 PM
Rich Cho's stint in the unemployment line didn't last too long.
After being fired by the Portland Trailblazers less than a month ago, the Charlotte Bobcats hired the 1983 Decatur High School graduate earlier this week to take over as general manager. Cho held the same job with Portland.
"I'm really looking forward to this opportunity and putting down some roots in Charlotte," Cho said at a press conference in Charlotte Tuesday. "It's just exciting to be here."
Cho joins the Bobcats, a franchise run by NBA legend Michael Jordan, after serving as general manager of Portland for just 10 months. Prior to that, Cho spent the previous 10 seasons as assistant GM of the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder.
"We're excited to add someone of Rich's caliber to our front office," Charlotte's President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins said. "Over the last decade he has become known as one of the best in the business at analytics and salary cap management, and we look forward to him bringing those abilities to our organization."
Cho will collaborate with Higgins in areas including player acquisitions, salary cap management and compliance with league rules and the collective bargaining agreement. Per team policy, terms of Cho's deal were not disclosed.
According to Cho, the Bobcats called him the day after he was fired in Portland and flew him to Charlotte, where he met with Jordan, Higgins and other team officials.
"I just saw their commitment to winning," Cho said. "I'm excited to be a Bobcat. It's a great market here and have heard nothing but great things about Charlotte."
The Bobcats finished the 2010-11 season with a disappointing 34-48 in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoff race. Charlotte's roster, however, is littered with young talent, including D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson. The Bobcats also have two of the first 19 picks at Thursday's NBA Draft.
Cho, 45, spent seven seasons as the assistant general manager in Seattle before having to pack his bags and make the move to Oklahoma City. He spent two seasons with the the Thunder in Oklahoma before taking over in Portland.
During his tenure with the Sonics and Thunder, Cho’s main responsibilities included assisting the general manager in player contract negotiations, drafting all player contracts, handling anything related to the salary cap and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and working closely with college scouts. He also dealt a lot with both the NBA legal department and player agents.
After graduating from Decatur, Cho went on to Washington State University, earning his degree in 1989 from Pullman. Cho then started working as an engineer at Boeing, where he spent five years.
But he still had the goal of working in sports. Cho did some research and found that a lot of sports agents and people in front offices of most professional sports organizations have law degrees. So he enrolled in law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., in 1994.
While at school, he sent a resumé to the Sonics that resulted in a summer internship. He interned again during the summer of 1996, then did part-time work for the Sonics after graduating in 1997.
He was promoted to assistant general manager of the Sonics in 2001, and served in that role until he was hired by Blazers’ owner Paul Allen last year.
Cho's departure from Portland came as a surprise to many outside of the organization. But, according to The Oregonian, it may have something to do with Seattle native and University of Washington star, Brandon Roy.
After Roy openly complained about his playing time following Game 2 of the Blazers’ playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks, Cho reportedly wanted to suspend the Seattle native. It never came to fruition and may have been the death-blow for Cho and the Blazers' upper management, led by owner Paul Allen, the Portland paper wrote.
"This decision, as difficult as it was to make, reflects our willingness to admit and recognize that things haven't worked out," Allen told The Oregonian. "We're going to be tough on ourselves in assessing what we could have done better, and then go out and find the executive who is the best fit with the needs of our franchise. That chemistry and connection is critically important."
Cho is a native of Burma who immigrated to the United States with his family in 1968 when he was 3 years old, He become the first Asian-American general manager in American major league sports.
An avid explorer of restaurants and cuisine, Cho enjoys staying active by playing basketball, tennis, ping-pong and softball in his spare time. He and his wife, Julie, have two daughters, Miranda and Annika.
Contact Federal Way Mirror Sports editor Casey Olson at email@example.com or (253) 925-5565 ext. 5056.