Mitch Kupchak sat -- or rather sprawled -- on a folding chair in the corner of Bowie's White Marsh Country Club gym last night, where he had just finished a basketball clinic for the Bullets.
The curly-topped giant grinned when asked how it felt to finally see the end of a summer filled with waiting. To know that he was officially a Los Angeles Laker.
"I'm a little upset," he said. "I missed the Bruce Springsteen concert (at Capital Centre) tonight.
"I wished they had waited until tomorrow morning to tell me."
So, instead of joinging the throngs of Springsteen fans (and Kupchak eagerly admits he is one), the 27-year-old center/forward was going to his home outside of Crofton, Md., to begin making phone calls to his family in New York and close friends to tell them the news.
"I don't want them to hear it over the radio." Kupchak said.
Despite thefact that Kupchak no longer was Bullet property last night, he joined five of his ex-teammates for the free appearance at the clinic.
What's more, he was the only player wearing a Bullet jersey.
"That's what I mean about Mitch being great," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue, gesturing at Kupchak cheerfully signing autographs and posing for pictures. She said he never doubted that Kupchak would show last night. "He's great, everything you would want in a proplayer. . . Mitch was very important to the team because of his enthusiasm and hard work."
The Lakers' newest player admitted what Bullet fans already knew: that the softspoken basketball player loves Washington and was willing to do almost anything to stay.
"I never did want to leave," Kupchak said.
In an attempt to stay in Washington, Kupchak even tried to circumvent the free-agent bidding system by asking the team for an offer reportedly $100,000 less than he will be earning with the Lakers. But the Bullets wouldn't bite.
"I wanted to have some control over my destiny," he recalled.
Finally, when he realized the Laker offer was too good to refuse, Kupchak signed an offer sheet and gave it to Bullet management. Until yesterday Kupchak said there always was a flicker of hope that the Bullets would meet the Laker offer and sign him.
Reflecting on his pay raise, Kupchak admitted that basketball's big bucks have complicated his life.
His agent kept asking him why he offered to take less money to stay in Washington.
His friend were astounded by the zeroes in his reported salary figures.
"They kept asking me, 'How much money do you need to live, Mitch? How much can you spend in one year?'" Kupchak recalled. "When my attorney told me how much money we were talking about I paused and said, 'Holy cow.'"
But Kupchak said making a lot of moneyis both good and bad.
"It's bad because you take it for granted. But it's good because you're getting it," he said with a laugh.
While Kupchak said he was ready for the news of the transfer, he admitted that the concessions Los Angeles made to get him were startling.
"I'm surprised a team would give up that much to get me," he said candidly.
Suddenly a teen-aged girl appeared. She pulled Kupchak to his feet while her boyfriend aimed a camera at them.
The smiled. Click. "Thanks. See ya," the girl called over her shoulder as Kupchak stared after her.
"Yeah, see you. Goodbye," he said softly. The suddenly serious.
"I guess now when I say goodbye I really mean it," Kupchak said.