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Clippers

Clippers executive Mark Hughes to interview for Bulls’ GM job

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has put together a front-office crew that has drawn interest from teams around the NBA the last few years.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

One year after several high-ranking Clippers employees were courted for jobs around the NBA only to ultimately stay, the franchise’s ability to retain its top talent again could be put to the test.

Mark Hughes, an assistant general manager who joined the Clippers in 2017, will interview for the Chicago Bulls’ general manager job, confirmed two people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

ESPN reported that two other candidates known to be in the running are Philadelphia’s Marc Eversley and Orlando’s Matt Lloyd.

Hughes is considered a strong candidate because of his reputation as a relationship builder with experience at all levels in basketball.

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A 6-foot-8 co-captain of Michigan’s 1989 NCAA championship team, Hughes has been a head coach in the Continental Basketball Assn., an NBA assistant coach in Orlando and Sacramento, and has worked in front offices since 2007, when he joined the Knicks as a scout before a promotion to director of player personnel.

This is not the first time Hughes has been considered for a GM job; three years ago, before joining the Clippers, Hughes spoke with Atlanta about the job that ultimately went to Travis Schlenk.

Chicago’s GM position is vacant following a recent front-office shake-up that resulted in the hiring of Denver general manager Arturas Karnisovas to become Chicago’s executive vice president of basketball operations. John Paxson, who previously held that title, is staying in a new advisory role, but Gar Forman, who had been the Bulls’ GM for a decade and part of its front office since 1998, was fired.

The Bulls have already begun to remake their front office under Karnisovas, reportedly hiring New Orleans’ J.J. Polk as assistant GM and Pat Connelly, a former scout in Denver.

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The Clippers granted permission for Chicago to interview Hughes as a matter of policy, just as last spring the team allowed Minnesota to speak with general manager Michael Winger and New Orleans with assistant GM Trent Redden. The Timberwolves were hiring for their top basketball job, while the Pelicans were looking for a general manager to work under top executive David Griffin, with whom Redden had worked while in Cleveland. The opportunities would have represented promotions but Winger — who ultimately declined to interview with Minnesota — and Redden both stayed because of what they later called a shared desire to continue the Clippers’ ambitious rebuild.

From stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to reserves Reggie Jackson and newcomer Joakim Noah, health is expected to be a strength for the Clippers.

Coupled with decisions last spring by coach Doc Rivers and consultant Jerry West to sign new deals to stay longer, as well, the retentions signaled that the Clippers had, under owner Steve Ballmer, transformed from one of the NBA’s least-desirable workplaces into one that could land and hold on to top talent. That belief was underscored months later when top free agent Kawhi Leonard picked the Clippers over the Lakers and newly crowned NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

Depending on Chicago’s interest in Hughes, the Clippers’ ability to counter promotions elsewhere could be tested again. The Bulls’ hiring process is expected to last into next week.


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