CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats have had an opening in the front office for two years. For nearly that long, Rod Higgins has been "beating Michael's ear up" about the need to fill a blind spot in a front office filled with "traditional basketball guys."
Enter Rich Cho, a former engineer with a law degree, who is a stark departure from Jordan's tendency to hire only old buddies. It may signal a sense of urgency and seriousness by the Charlotte owner to finally produce a winner.
The Bobcats introduced Cho as general manager on Tuesday in a front-office shake up just over a week before the draft. Cho takes over from Higgins, who was promoted to director of basketball operations.
"This will give us a whole different area that we can open up our minds to," Higgins said. "He'll bring in some concepts and some stats and some analytics that we haven't done in the past. I think that's the beauty of it."
It's a quick return to the NBA for the 45-year-old Cho, who was fired as GM of the Portland Trail Blazers last month after less than a year on the job. Now he's charged by Jordan with making a success out of a franchise with one playoff appearance and no postseason victories in seven years.
"He's open to listening to new ideas. He's open to a lot of dialogue," Cho said of Jordan. "I really, really feel like he wants to win."
Cho acknowledged he "didn't see it coming" when the Blazers fired him. President Larry Miller said it was because of "chemistry issues," believed to be with owner Paul Allen. Cho declined to address the issue, saying he didn't want to "dwell on the past."
The Bobcats moved quickly to get him.
Higgins said he called Cho the day after his dismissal to wish him luck. Then Higgins met with Jordan about hiring Cho. Jordan, who was a former teammate of Higgins and whose team president Fred Whitfield is an old friend, agreed.
"I don't think Michael has ever felt that he wouldn't hire outside his group, his whatever you want to call it," Higgins said. "I don't think he's ever been scared to hire somebody he hasn't had a past with."
As has been his custom following major moves, Jordan ducked questions. He skipped Tuesday's news conference and released a statement.
"Rod's tireless efforts and leadership have our team and our basketball operations staff moving in the right direction, and the addition of Rich Cho brings another bright basketball mind to our organization," Jordan said. "In making these moves, I am confident that we will continue to build this team into one that can compete at the elite levels of the Eastern Conference and the NBA."
A native of Burma, Cho has a diverse background. He worked as an engineer at Boeing and earned a law degree at Pepperdine before moving into sports. He served several roles with Seattle/Oklahoma City, including assistant GM, before becoming the NBA's first Asian GM last year.
He faces a tall task with the Bobcats, who have spent the past several seasons making numerous trades and dealing with major salary-cap issues.
"It's not going to happen overnight," Cho said. "Oklahoma City is one of the best up-and-coming teams and it didn't happen overnight there. It's going to be a process. The good thing is we do have some flexibility cap-wise coming up in the next few years. We have some good young players in D.J. Augustin and D.J. White, Gerald Henderson and Tyrus (Thomas). We've got three picks in the top 39 this year."
The added first-round pick is, oddly, because of a deal Higgins brokered with Cho at the February trade deadline. The much-scrutinized deal sent Gerald Wallace -- the last original member of the team, its only All-Star and most popular player -- to the Blazers for draft picks and salary-cap space.
"After we made the trade with Rod, I talked to him the day after and I said, 'Rod, I really think this is a good trade for you because you guys are in a little different situation than we are in Portland,"' Cho said. "I think it's really smart to go get some assets, a couple picks and some cap room."
Jordan inherited plenty of cap space from former GM Bernie Bickerstaff in 2006, but quickly used it up in trades before reaching a crisis situation last summer.
To get under the luxury tax payroll threshold -- something Jordan said the money-losing team wouldn't go over -- Charlotte traded Tyson Chandler to Dallas for Erick Dampier's non-guaranteed $13 million contract.
The Bobcats eventually waived Dampier to avoid the tax and was short-handed at center for most of a 34-48 season that included coach Larry Brown's dismissal. Chandler went on to become a key cog in the Mavericks' championship season.
Higgins will remain the top basketball man under Jordan. But Cho will be given plenty of freedom to talk trades and manage the cap. Jordan is hoping Cho can help the Hall of Famer produce his first winner from the boardroom.
"If you can get a guy that has the legal background and cap management, it's a win-win because of the assets we already have here," Higgins said of Cho. "He glues the whole team together because of his skills set."