Improved Hornets give GM Bower five-year extension

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jeff Bower signed a five-year extension Friday to remain the general manager of the New Orleans Hornets through 2011.

Bower has overseen a dramatic overhaul of the Hornets since he was promoted to general manager in October to replace Allan Bristow. Only four players who went through training camp with the Hornets last season are still on the roster.

"We were all looking for change because nobody was satisfied with an 18-win season," Bower said. "As an organization, we were committed to great change."

Last season, the Hornets had the biggest improvement of any NBA team -- jumping from 18 wins in 2004-05 to 38 last season. Bower followed that by signing free agents Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson and Jannero Pargo, trading for center Tyson Chandler and re-signing forward Rasual Butler in an offseason push to prepare the team for a run to the playoffs.

"It was a big jump from 18 to 38. It was a big jump, but we went into the offseason looking at that and understanding that to get from 38 to 43 or 44 may be even harder than getting from 18 to 38," Bower said.

"A lot of factors are at play there, but the biggest thing is when the difference in making that kind of jump is the difference that separates you from a team that is a potential playoff team to one who's on the outside looking in."

Bower said the Hornets were so aggressive this offseason "because we didn't feel if we brought back the same team that we would have enough overall ability and juice and talent to make this next jump because it is a difficult one to make."

Bower doesn't expect his second season as general manager to be as busy as the first, but noted that last season's flurry of moves were brought on in part by uncontrollable circumstances including the dismissal of Chris Andersen for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy and a season-ending injury to Jackson Vroman.

"Our goal now as we put this group of guys together is to let them grow together, let them learn how to play together, let them work together and find out what we have," Bower said. "We know we don't have the final puzzle put together, but I think it's important that we are able to look at it from a distance, watch it develop, see the potential that it has before we make many major moves once again."

Bower is in his second stint as the Hornets' GM. He worked his way up through the organization after starting off as an advance scout in 1995. He also served as an assistant coach before becoming the general manager for two years, beginning in 2001.

He credited support staff in some of those positions he held, as well as vice president Willis Reed and owner George Shinn, for their roles in the team's turnaround.

"There's been an awful lot of people put a lot of effort into this, so don't think that I sat alone and concocted this brew," Bower said. "But ultimately, none of us would have been in power to do anything if Mr. Shinn hadn't stepped forward and given us a directive to improve the team."