Basketball / Sports

Rod Higgins out from Hornets front office

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Hornets have parted ways with Rod Higgins, their president of basketball operations, placing general manager Rich Cho in charge of the team's future.

The Hornets announced just after midnight Friday that Higgins has stepped down from his position, effective immediately. This change comes two weeks before the June 26 draft, in which the Hornets have the ninth, 24th and 45th overall picks. In addition, the Hornets will have at least $13 million in space under the salary cap in July to pursue free agents or trades.

Higgins declined to comment Friday on what prompted his departure.

A source told the Observer that Higgins was offered a contract but he chose not to accept it. It's unclear whether the contract was for a change in job responsibilities.

Cho was at the Hornets draft workout on Friday morning but did not make himself available for comment. Coach Steve Clifford addressed the situation after Friday's workout.

"Rod and I had a great working relationship. He helped me a lot, he helped our staff a lot. He's a terrific basketball guy and a great person," Clifford said.

"That being said, change is a big part of this league. We need to quickly focus and move forward. Continue to build the right culture and roster to be a good team year-in and year-out."

Asked specifically about Cho now being in charge of the basketball operation, Clifford said, "Rich and I have been working together all year. So I don't see that as being any different."

"Rich is very organized, on top of things. I know we'll be prepared for the draft and prepared for free-agency. I don't see that part being an adjustment at all."

Higgins' relationship with team owner Michael Jordan stretches back to the 1980s when Jordan was a Chicago Bulls rookie and Higgins was a veteran forward on that team. Higgins previously worked with Jordan when Jordan ran basketball operations for the Washington Wizards.

Higgins was one of the first hires after Jordan bought an ownership stake in the Bobcats in the spring of 2006. Jordan later bought majority control of the franchise from Bob Johnson in 2010.

Higgins chose to leave the Golden State Warriors, where he had been general manager, in 2007 to take the same position with the then-Bobcats.

In the spring of 2011 the Bobcats hired Cho as general manger, promoting Higgins to the new position of president of basketball operations. Cho and Higgins often appeared together in media sessions, trading off answers to questions. They shared responsibility for the team's performance with no clear delineation of responsibility.

Now Cho is clearly in charge of the team's basketball future. He will report directly to Jordan and vice chairman Curtis Polk, according to the statement the Hornets released overnight.

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