Hornets, GM Jeff Bower part ways

New Orleans Hornets general manager Jeff Bower stepped down on
Tuesday, parting ways with a franchise that is trying to prove to
restless All-Star Chris Paul that it is serious about winning.

The sudden announcement from the Hornets stated that Bower and
the team ”mutually agreed” on the move, but Bower was not made
available for comment and he did not answer a call to his cell
phone.

”We feel it is in the best interest for us and Jeff to part
ways at this time,” Hornets president Hugh Weber said. ”Our
search for a new general manager is already under way. We will
target basketball minds that are highly respected in the basketball
circles and someone that will help in our pursuit of building a
championship team.”

Bower had spent more that 14 seasons with the Hornets in various
capacities, starting as a scout. He was promoted to general manager
in 2005.

Bower took over as head coach nine games into last season after
the firing of Byron Scott, leading the Hornets to a 34-39 record
that left the club at 37-45 overall and out of the playoffs. He
went back to the front office during the offseason, when Monty
Williams was hired as the Hornets’ new coach.

Bower continued to play a central role last month in the
Hornets’ draft, which involved a trade of the club’s 11th overall
pick, Kansas Center Cole Aldrich, for the 21st and 26th picks by
Oklahoma City, Iowa State forward Craig Brackins and Washington
swing player Quincy Pondexter.

Bower also had been widely credited for his role in the Hornets’
2009 draft that brought the team former UCLA point guard Darren
Collison and former LSU shooting guard Marcus Thornton, who both
produced beyond expectations as rookies.

Bower’s final move was to bring in free agent guard Luther Head,
who agreed to terms with the club last weekend.

Still, Paul’s apparent unhappiness with the state of the
franchise has loomed large. During a recent charity golf tournament
he hosted in New Orleans, Paul said he wants to see a commitment
from the team to win now.

With their payroll already close to the NBA’s luxury tax
threshold, the Hornets will likely have to spend generously in free
agency or make a major trade to upgrade their roster significantly
for next season.

Meanwhile, the club’s ownership is uncertain. Hornets majority
owner George Shinn had a verbal agreement to sell to minority owner
Gary Chouest in May, but neither owner has been willing to discuss
what has taken so long to complete the deal.

After Bower’s departure, Shinn said only that he and Chouest
remain committed to making the Hornets a winner.

”Gary Chouest and I have the necessary resources and will
continue to do what it takes this summer to make our team better,”
Shinn said. ”Under the new leadership of Monty Williams, our team
president Hugh Weber and our new (yet-to-be-hired) general manager,
we feel very positive about our future.”