SBD/Issue 112/Franchises

Blazers President & GM Patterson Resigns; Leiweke Takes Over

Patterson Steps Down As Trail
Blazers President & GM
Trail Blazers President & GM Steve Patterson has resigned, and Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke will assume management oversight for the team. Leiweke, who will continue in his role with the Seahawks, will also become CEO of the newly-formed Vulcan Sports & Entertainment. The company will oversee all of Seahawks and Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen’s sports-related properties, including the two teams, Rose Garden Arena and Memorial Coliseum, upon completion of the company’s negotiations with Portland Arena Management (PAM) (Vulcan Inc.).

SURPRISED BY TIMING: In Portland, Kerry Eggers reports Patterson “hinted Thursday at disagreements with ownership” for his resignation, but he did not expand on that. Patterson said, “The key to any franchise being successful is having everybody in alignment, from the owner all the way down to the ballboys” (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 3/2). Also in Portland, Jason Quick writes the resignation “was stunning not so much because of the result, but because of the timing.” Patterson had a clause in his contract, which was set to expire in June, marking Thursday as “the deadline for Allen to decide on [his] future.” When Allen declined to pick up the option, Patterson decided to resign. During his tenure, the Trail Blazers “suffered its most financially tumultuous period, with controversial decisions that nearly resulted in the sale” of the team. However, in the ten months since assuming the GM title, Patterson has “bolstered the team’s talent level -– and fans’ interest –- sparked by a blockbuster night at the NBA draft” (OREGONIAN, 3/2).

Writer Feels Handling Of Miles
Incident “Crushed” GM’s Image
TAINTED TENURE: The OREGONIAN’s Quick notes two events “marred” Patterson’s tenure with the team. In ’04, he “failed in his gamble to renegotiate Allen’s debt on the Rose Garden,” resulting in losing control of the arena to PAM. Secondly, Patterson “privately negotiated a kickback” of a $150,000 fine to former Blazers F Darius Miles after he was suspended for two games for berating former coach Maurice Cheeks. During Patterson’s tenure, he fired over 100 employees and cut player payroll from $102M in ’03 to the current $73M mark. Patterson said, “We were losing north of [$120-130M] when I first came here, and the ballclub has cut that by two-thirds.” While the team did not make the playoffs during his tenure, Patterson’s “greatest claim is that he lived up to his promise to clean up the Blazers’ sordid image” (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/2). In Portland, Helen Jung wrote it is “unfair to pin the drop in value or all the absolutely puzzling decisions made by the Trail Blazers in the past few years all on Patterson.” However, the moves “put the team in its most precarious and financially tumultuous period ever” (OREGONLIVE.com, 3/1). The OREGONIAN’s John Canzano writes the “dirty little secret buried in Patterson’s departure is that had he been more pleasant, had he connected better with people, had he not been heavy-handed and woefully phony -– had he showed any charisma at all -– fair or not, he probably would have survived.” The Miles situation “crushed his image,” and he “insulted the intelligence of the public by claiming it was part of a larger ‘rehabilitation’ of Miles.” Also, team insiders claim it was Assistant GM Kevin Pritchard and not Patterson “who had primarily orchestrated the ambitious draft-day bonanza” (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/2).

Leiweke (l with Allen) Says He Wants To
Fill Leadership Positions By NBA Draft
NOT WAITING FOR CHANGE: Allen said he wanted to “make a change sooner as opposed to when [Patterson’s] contract expired, which I think is a better situation both for Steve and, in terms of our being able to accelerate our search process and get somebody in place before the draft.” When asked what he is looking for in Patterson’s replacement, Allen said, “I want to make sure [the Rose Garden is] full, we sell out all the tickets, we’re rocking, all the suites are sold, and the franchise gets back to the kind of momentum and enthusiasm and re-connection with the community we had years ago” (OREGONLIVE.com, 3/1). Allen said he will repurchase the Rose Garden, and Leiweke added, “There is an enormous bracketed number (financial deficit) in the budget, and if we can’t get it fixed, the franchise is in peril” (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/2).

TEMPORARY SOLUTION: Leiweke said that he is “not a candidate for either [president or GM] and he wants to have both positions filled before the NBA draft” on June 28. He added that “whoever fills the positions must live in the city.” Leiweke indicated that he “expects to hire a president separately rather than have one person fill both jobs.” Pritchard is a candidate for the GM role, while Trail Blazers Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Golub is a candidate for the president’s spot (OREGONIAN, 3/2).

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