The Owner’s Box


March 5, 2012 by David Gillaspie

(as seen on

Al Davis gave his Raiders the only message they needed.

Just Win.

He turned it into a foundation block for excellence until the Raiders stopped winning and he stopped making sense.

What message does owner Paul Allen send his teams? To the Blazers he says send the GM on a trip to Finland for a yacht-side interview, then fire him. The next hire will be even more exotic.

Meet me in my space station, babee, for the first orbiting hire.

But it’s more than the Blazers.

For his other team, the Seahawks, Mr. Allen flung Bob Whitsitt, the same chemistry teacher who ran experiments in Portland using Al Davis formulas. Bring in the most menacing characters, kick butt, then mark the victory parade route and start the party.

Except in Seattle the most menacing character Whitsitt brought in was coach Mike Holmgren. The butt-kicking started right away.

Eventually Holmgren found Paul Allen’s ‘I Love Bob Whitsitt’ button the year before the Super Bowl run and pushed it.

The flushing noise was the sound of Mr. Whitsitt leaving the building. The cheering was every Seahawk fan after winning the NFC title. The hurling splash came after watching officials give the next game to the Steelers. No one should have to see that happen.

The last time the Blazers mattered came during the Whitsitt-ruled Jail Blazer era. They got close to winning big and started the party. Not everyone was invited. One party started in the backseat of a car on Hwy 43 featuring a pop can for a pipe. Another blazed on I-5 between Seattle and Portland. Neither were championship parties.

Where will Mr. Allen take Portland, and the Trail Blazers, now? From failed drafts and ugly trades, Portland moved from night games on the driveway court under the good porch light, to the hoop in the backyard lit by the bathroom window.

From the best drafts in team history, to the worst injuries, to a way station for expiring contracts. What’s next?

Common sense says build teams in the draft, which means drafting the right guys. Uncommon sense says dump all your draft leverage to bring in guys at the end of their NBA clock.

What will Paul do? Or more to the point, what won’t Paul do?

He won’t remember Shawn Kemp family experiment, the Gary Payton/Karl Malone Lakers, or Scotty Pippen. He won’t reflect on how much he’s given and who has given back. Instead, he’ll gather his Vulcans and Klingons and Stratocasters and they’ll tell him what he needs to hear.

“Paulie, listen, c’mon, on a scale of Al Davis to Jerry Jones you’re doing great, okay? You’re not all boozed up in bars slamming your coaches on someone’s recorder. You’re not getting your face stretched by capped teeth from the John Elway stable of dentists.”

Or, “Mr. Allen, seriously, all anyone expects from you is effort. That’s all that matters. If you happen to win something, that’s fine and good. The important thing to remember is showing you care. You’ve done more than enough to prove it, sir.”

Or, “Paul, you hired me because you value my opinion. If I believe my opinion has merit, I must then share it. Paul, it’s Portland. They’re different down there. If they lived for sports, they’d live in a sports city. The smart ones have already moved to Seattle and San Francisco.”

“Let’s be honest about Oregon, Paul. Statistically, they have one more major league team than Wyoming. These are people, Paul, who confuse money and allegiance. We both know you can’t buy allegiance. Rent it, maybe, but even that has a shelf life. As long as we put something resembling a basketball team in Blazer uniforms, people will show up. Avoid rapists, drug smugglers, and serial sperm donors, though. We’ve already seen how they perform together. Blazer fans may not be as intelligent as us, Paul, but even they have a line they won’t cross.”

For most, Oregon is nothing more than a few extra rest stops between California and Canada. It’s place to be from. That doesn’t mean those who call it home have judgment as clouded as the sky. Or can’t tell the difference between professional basketball and NBA basketball. There’s a talent and money gap between the Developmental League and the NBA for a reason.

As long as Dwayne Wade visits each year with his NBA-style reminder, we’ll know. Add Kevin Love to the list of NBA teachers and the lesson sinks in. Who checks Paul Allen’s homework? The same advisers who watch other owners drive their teams into the dirt.

2 thoughts on “The Owner’s Box

  1. markmmullins says:

    Go get em Dave, don’t pull any punches.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      I’m glad you can see the problem, Mark. What if you went to a Tom Petty concert and a large woman came on stage with him singing in a Fleetwood Mac Stevie Nicks’ voice? Then she’s introduced as Stevie Nicks and you leave wondering what happened to the real Stevie Nicks.

      Same with the Blazers. Things change for the better, then for the worse, then really horrible and all you want is the worse era because change for the better was so long ago.

      Oregon’s in the low middle of some state education evaluations, but still we know what NBA basketball looks like. We have televisions.

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