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.”