Will the Trail Blazers next General Manager please step up?

Blazer GM saga continues

There’s a perennial hot seat up for grabs at 1 Center Court in Portland, Oregon. I’ll save you the trip to Google Maps, what I’m referring to is the Rose Garden, and the Portland Trail Blazers continued search for a new general manager.

Known around the league as being a hard boss to work for, Paul Allen hasn’t made life easy for a Blazer general manager over the past 4 to 5 years, and that reputation may be coming back to haunt Portland’s current management search.

Allen’s fall guys

Kevin Pritchard (GM from 2007-2010)

Was arguably one of the best general managers in the league, but was abruptly let go by Allen prior to the 2010 NBA Draft (quick side-note: Allen let Pritchard’s last act of Portland GM be that of making the draft decisions in 2010, a decision that left all of the Rose City faithful scratching their heads.

Wouldn’t you not take the draft seriously enough if you had just been canned by the team you were drafting for?). Explanations as to why Pritchard was let go were scarce as both Larry Miller and Paul Allen learned to strategically avoid that question all together.

Allen’s new guy, Rich Cho (GM from 2010-2011), who landed Gerald Wallace from Charlotte before the 2011 trade deadline, was let go just 10 months into a 3 year contract for what was called “chemistry” issues.

Even though Cho had put Portland on the fast track to becoming one of the darlings in a tough Western Conference, his lack of a connection with owner Paul Allen ultimately spelled his demise as general manager of the Blazers.

Rip City GM Search

Names from all over the league have popped up during Portland's quest including Steve Kerr

How about we just don’t hire any GM?

GM-less and reeling from yet another first round playoff exit, the Portland Trail Blazers had more to worry about this season than a lockout shortened, 66 game season.

While they may have started the season hot, and were early favorites for one of the top spots in the West, the last 3 months of the season were not too friendly for the Blazers.

Allen seemingly blew up the current roster at this years trade deadline and fired long time head coach Nate McMillan, essentially packing it in for the rest of the year.

The 2011-2012 season was evidence enough that Portland so desperately needed a competent general manager to call the shots and effectively take the personnel decisions out of the hands of Paul Allen and Larry Miller.

So what’s Allen’s next move?

Vowing to find a suitable GM to take the reigns of a troubled team, Allen has searched high and low for a candidate that is willing to not only dig Portland out of the depths of the West, but who can co-exist with its enigmatic owner.

Names from all over the league have popped up during Portland’s quest to find a general manager. From Steve Kerr, to Mitch Kupchak, as well as Chris Mullin, and Bucks executive John Hammond, the Blazer’s effort is there, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

Kerr already turned down the position, Kupchak has to be considered a stretch since he is at the helm of a very successful, and perennial powerhouse, Los Angeles Laker’s team, and Chris Mullin just wouldn’t be a great fit (personal opinion based off of his tenure as the Warrior GM in Oakland).

So who are the odds-on favorites?

Aside from the wish-list that Paul Allen is drooling over, there is a short list of candidates that are a more realistic fit in this whole GM debacle. Both Jeff Bower and David Morway have been tied to the position, and are said to have interviewed directly with Allen over the last month.

Jeff Bower, former New Orleans Hornets GM from 2002-03 and 2005-2010, put together an impressive track record while pulling the strings in New Orleans. His notable draft day decisions include drafting Chris Paul (2005), David West (2003) and Darren Collison (2009).

All three of those guys played key roles for playoff teams this past season (although none of them are still on the Hornets).

David Morway, current GM of the Indiana Pacers, has also constructed quite the impressive resume during his time in Indiana. After taking over general manager duties with the departure of Donnie Walsh, Morway has helped bring a Pacers team back in to NBA relevance.

Paul Allen & Pete Carroll

it is a step in the right direction to get a few candidates in front of owner Paul Allen. (Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE)

He’s brought in guys like Paul George and Roy Hibbert through the draft, traded for David West, Darren Collison and George Hill, and, after missing the playoffs for four straight seasons, has helped Indiana make the postseason two years running.

This year, the Pacers were the number three seed in a strong Eastern Conference, and also finished with the fifth best record in the NBA.

And the winner is?

While the decision hasn’t been made yet on who will fill the vacant role of general manager, it is a step in the right direction to get a few candidates in front of owner Paul Allen.

It may not be the most appealing job in the industry, what with a team that fell so far last year and an owner that can be a thorn in your side, but progress so desperately needed to be made in this process.

From a fan’s viewpoint David Morway seems like a great choice, and fit, for Portland. Morway’s time in Indiana has produced one of the surprise teams in basketball, and after going toe to toe with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, should be playoff regulars in the East for years to come.

While Portland was considered a playoff regular heading in to this season, they hadn’t had a series win under their belt in quite some time. Morway could provide the direction, and management, needed to get Portland to that next level.

But as the Rip City faithful has seen in the past, if Paul Allen has any qualms with the GM, then away they will go.

So here’s to hoping that Paul Allen not only finds the next great decision maker in Portland, but can find one he can co-exist with because the city of Portland deserves a team free of dysfunction and turmoil.

The Jail Blazer era brought basketball to its knees in Portland, let’s hope Paul Allen’s inability to maintain relationships doesn’t do the same thing 10 years later.


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About Rick Stella

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