May 23, 2011
The Portland Trail Blazers fired general manager Rich Cho Monday, after a tenure that didn't even last a full calendar year. He wasn't even in place for last June's NBA draft, and he'll be looking for work during this June's NBA draft, and even considering the volatile behind-the-scenes machinations we're used to from Blazers owner Paul Allen's Vulcan organization, this is pretty nutty.
In the coming days, higher placed sources will discuss things on the record with higher placed columnists about what went wrong in Portland, but we can safely rely on two initial thoughts as news of Cho's dismissal hits two days after news that he attempted to suspend guard Brandon Roy(notes) for speaking to Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears about his frustrations with playing time.
One, you shouldn't be anywhere near the idea of suspending a player, any player, in the midst of a playoff series for myriad reasons, whether you're down 0-2 or up 2-0. There's no way around it. The lesson isn't worth it.
Secondly, these Blazers are a majorly screwed-up organization right now. Despite the consistent playoff appearances, this cannot be denied. And it starts at the top.
Because while former GM Kevin Pritchard annoyed many, his biggest transgression in the eyes of Vulcan was not aligning himself with every bit of articulated thought that petered down from their offices on high. Pritchard was a good sport in capably running Portland's draft after he was fired last year, but that was a ridiculous enough position to be put in by the Portland ownership. Whether he deserved to be fired or not isn't the question, it's whether you announce to the world, your fans, and 29 other teams that the guy who is making the phone calls is a lame duck. And you don't do that.
And now Cho is out after a pretty successful stint, Roy frustrations aside. His major move was to turn Dante Cunningham(notes), Joel Przybilla(notes) and Sean Marks(notes) (plus New Orleans' first-round pick next month, and a conditional 2013 first-rounder) for Gerald Wallace(notes). Wallace immediately amplified his game, the Blazers finished the season on a tear, and few picked the Mavs to take them down in the first round of the playoffs.
But they did. And Roy grumbled about minutes, while his contributions (regardless of minutes) varied from an All-Star level turn to save Game 4, to the barely-worth-a-rotation-spot player we saw in other turns. The season ended swiftly, coach Nate McMillan mused about his team's roster last week, and that was about it, until now.
The Blazers dug deep to hire the well-regarded Chad Buchanan as his temporary replacement, denying a takeover opportunity for both of Cho's assistant GMs, who will apparently be retained. And from here?
If history is any indication, the Blazers will either hire someone who takes and executes their directive, no matter how damaging. Or they will hire someone who will impress in interviews while the Vulcan brass impresses themselves about how much they'll stay out of the new one's hair. Which of course they won't, and we'll be right back at this keyboard typing this same story out in a year or two.