In an exclusive interview with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan explained the details behind Rod Higgins’ decision to step down from his post as President of Basketball Operations.
Higgins’ contract as President of Basketball Operations was nearing its end. Because of this, Jordan offered Higgins a new contract. However, in that deal, he told Higgins his roles would be changing.
Higgins, possibly feeling a bit slighted, saw this as a demotion and refused. Jordan gave him the option of resigning from his position or being fired after the draft.
With that, Higgins chose to step down as President of Basketball Operations.
This doesn’t completely explain why the press report wasn’t released until late Thursday nigh, shortly after the end of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but it at least explains why Higgins chose to step down two weeks before the draft.
Jordan believed that Higgins had qualities that allowed him to be useful to the team.
“Rod’s strong points are working with the coaches and the trainers, traveling with the team,” Jordan said. “He was my buffer zone with the coaches. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas, so I’d work with Rod on that.”
A misconception about front offices is that rather than an entire unit, it’s one guy making all the decisions, and while one person eventually signs off on everything, it’s usually a team effort to reach these conclusions that includes the coaches. Having a guy like Higgins that could work with the coaches was useful to Jordan, but in his role as president, he had other jobs that he didn’t excel at.
“One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams,” Jordan said. “Sometimes when teams would call (proposing trades), they’d bypass Rod to get to Rich.”
When you consider Higgins’ reputation as president of basketball operations, it’s no surprise to hear Jordan say he wasn’t good at negotiations. He never had a history of success.
He earned this reputation from taking over the team in 2007, and in that entire span, never once created a successful culture. A horrible draft resume, the Tyrus Thomas trade, trading for Corey Maggette, and signing Matt Carroll to a six-year $27 million dollar contract were some memorable blunders during his tenure.
Jordan has always been criticized as an owner for putting his friends and “yes men” around him, rather than smart people that were willing to disagree with his decisions. The decision to remove his longtime friend Rod Higgins shows a continuing change in the Charlotte franchise.
The Hornets are no longer the bumbling jokes of the NBA that they were as the Bobcats. The franchise is moving in the right direction and this is another example of that.