In Search Of: A Blazer GM


May 30, 2012 by David Gillaspie


Communities celebrate each anniversary of their pro teams whether they’re on a championship level, or not. Teams with high expectations and universal achievement get the biggest parties; fans worldwide join the spirit.

Not the Portland Trail Blazers. Their biggest anti-anniversary was for not having a general manager on staff. Even the Keep Portland Weird crowd thinks that’s too weird.

The one year mark came and went with Blazer President Larry Miller announcing his search process for the next general manager.

Once the posse brings in a list of candidates, you’ll want to hear an interview. And you will, but let’s review past GMs for Your Portland Trailblazers first.

The man who guided the team from the Jail Blazer era to nearer the promised land became a local darling. He knew basketball. He knew the NBA. He attended Momma Mia the same night as me and had the same ‘Who knew I liked Abba so much’ expression.

But that wasn’t enough.

He didn’t know the men behind the curtain pulling levers like modern day Wizards of Oz. From the Emerald City to the Rose City, the Wizards of Vulcan faulted Kevin Pritchard’s free-wheeling, pritch-slapping style. To quiet an organization ranking as an after-thought in their world, they broke out


They worked Pritchard, hung him out, then at the last dramatic moment cut him loose with all the lights on. In their world, public humiliation is the best way to show who the power base favors. In the NBA world of ‘what have you done for me lately’, it’s just another day at work where the words “we fully support our staff” means someone is about to get fired.

Everybody in the building knows what those words mean, from superstars to fans in the 300 level with cement headrests; it’s those outside who soil the definition.


“Allen said he arrived at the team’s draft headquarters with no intentions of firing Pritchard. But during a break, Pritchard approached him.

“I went out to get some fresh air and Kevin tracked me down and basically said, ‘Well, you have already decided to let me go.’ And I said, ‘No. I haven’t,’ ‘‘ Allen said. “He said, ‘Well, you really should. Can I just meet with Larry (Miller) the next day and we will part ways?’ And I was like, “OK…Really?”

Allen said Pritchard “kept coming back” at him about being fired. He said Pritchard asked Allen what his concerns were, and after Allen told him, Pritchard again asked to be let go.

“He asked to be let go, multiple time,’’ Allen said.

When asked if he would have kept him had Pritchard not probed so hard, Allen sounded doubtful.”

Except it doesn’t read very doubtful.

Names you want in a basketball pedigree include Indiana, Kansas, Larry Brown, and Gregg Popovich. Pritchard had them all. Today he works for NBA Executive of the Year Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers. Is he good enough? The Eastern Conference semi-Finals looked fitting.

Between the fired Pritchard who made Portland more than a career stop, and the GM search today, Rich Cho came over from the Thunder. After ten months he left, a bad fit beside Paul Allen when he showed up at the Rose Garden. Today,  Cho’s old team plays in the Western Conference Finals. They have a special look, a stylish flair.

Was Rich Cho a bad fit in Portland? Michael Jordan didn’t think so when he hired him for the Bobcats. The Thunder went from horrible in Seattle to great in OKC with Cho’s help. Why expect anything less in North Carolina? When Cho is the NBA Executive of the Year and Jordan lifts the O’Brien trophy again and again, resist going to Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, or any other perceived Blazer fail. This one is the worst, but that’s basketball, right?

Blazer President Larry Miller is not the NBA Executive of the Year. This fictional account reveals why:

Mr. Miller invites a general managing candidate into his office.

M: “Good afternoon. Please, have a seat. Can my assistant get you anything? No? Then let’s get started.

“For the sake of some background, do you have a signature move? A witch-slap, or snitch-slap that you’ll surprise us with when we least expect it? No? Good.

“Next, um, when you see an established team struggling, do you,

“A. Trade the good parts for future draft picks and a chance to dominate the playoffs for a decade?


“B. Plug in suspected malcontents for an unlikely short-term fix to keep the fan-base engaged while getting the coach fired?

“Take your time. The wrong answer comes with a bus ticket to the worst team in the league, ha, ha. Just kidding. Sort of. I can’t confirm or deny the bus schedules for Charlotte.

“Now then, when you think of the name vulcan, do you,

“A. Picture a race of science fiction characters portrayed with pointy ears and excessive logic?


“B. Imagine a progressive brain trust of Ivy League noodlers juggling a rich man’s money for their entertainment?

“Again, take your time. The wrong answer may send you to a job as an athletic director in the Pac12 instead of an NBA luxury suite and a corner office next to me. And it’s nice, real nice.

“If the time comes, how would you respond to a request to fly half-way around the world for a three hour interview on a boat, then fly back? Consider the threat of deep vein thrombosis, swollen ankles, and jet lag before you answer. Keep in mind the man interviewing you may or may not care any more about you than he does anything else. You may feel special, but it’ll take more than flying on a private jet.

“On a more practical level, if you were to interview with Paul Allen and he confused your visit with either of his other teams, the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, or MLS’s Seattle Sounders, would you nod and listen to him talk about concussions in football, or demand that he stop wasting your time?

“I’ve found the key element in working for Mr. Allen is his genuine love of film, of story telling. Did you know his documentary This Emotional Life won medals, gold medals, at the 2011 New York Festival Television and Film Awards? Not many do.

“Again, think of me as an ally in this process. I am here to help you understand the parameters of working for Mr. Allen. I am the President of the Portland Trailblazers. My experience with Jantzen, Kraft Foods, the Campbell Soup Company, and Nike make me the ideal president of any NBA team.

“If I wasn’t the president here, I’d be president somewhere else. That’s just who I am. Presidential. Knowing where the buck stops.”

Larry Miller looks at the Portland Trail Blazers general manager candidate sitting across from him. The candidate works hard to reflect Larry Miller back at him.

M: “I feel we’ve made progress in our search today.”

(posted on


5 thoughts on “In Search Of: A Blazer GM

  1. […] wasn’t hard to change, given the stunning effect of the show. That’s when I saw Kevin Pritchard and he looked as confused as me by unrealized drama feelings. Other men in the crowd, not all but […]

  2. […] wasn’t hard to change, given the stunning effect of the show. That’s when I saw Kevin Pritchard and he looked as confused as me by unrealized drama feelings. Other men in the crowd, not all but […]

  3. markmmullins says:

    Good stuff, Dave. Enjoyed it, got educated and had a couple good chuckles.

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