SBD/June 5, 2012/Franchises

Trail Blazers Hire Neil Olshey As GM After Deal With Clippers Falls Through

Olshey interviewed for the Trail Blazers GM position in '11 and last month
The Trail Blazers yesterday “hired Neil Olshey as their general manager," three days after Olshey was reported to have reached an agreement to stay with the Clippers, according to Jason Quick of the Portland OREGONIAN. The Trail Blazers “swept in after contract negotiations with the Clippers broke down" and will introduce Olshey in news conference this afternoon. Quick notes Olshey comes to the Blazers “in perhaps the most fluid time in the franchise’s history.” Olshey “twice interviewed for the position -- once in summer 2011, then again in late May with owner Paul Allen in London.” It is “unknown whether Olshey will keep the Blazers' current basketball operations staff," which includes acting GM Chad Buchanan. Most of the staff is "under contract through June 2014,” including Buchanan, Dir of NBA Scouting Mike Born and Assistant GMs Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry. Buchanan said, “I don't have any idea if he will want to keep me.” Quick notes Olshey's agent Warren LeGarie and Clippers Owner Donald Sterling -- “a notoriously stingy owner -- couldn't come to an agreement on Olshey's contract, and the Blazers moved in and made their offer” (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).

SHREWD MOVE: In Portland, John Canzano writes Olshey is “either going to save the Trail Blazers franchise, or he's going to join the ranks of those who have been chewed up by the wild ride of a Paul Allen machine and spit out in the back alley.” Canzano: “Olshey ends up a surprisingly practical hire. It's not shiny. It's not shocking. As a huge positive, it appears that the guy knows how to negotiate brilliantly.” Fans “shouldn't care if he leveraged one to get the other, or vice versa.” Whatever the case, Olshey “was in demand and took his pick of GM jobs.” Olshey “led the Clippers out of the lottery and he won't have to play catch-up in the NBA draft, and for that, I'm giving him a chance to steal the show.” As much as the hire “lacks luster and won't cause a rush on season tickets, they're getting a guy who was the sitting general manager while the Clippers turned their fortune.” It is “not as splashy as Phil Jackson," but Blazers fans are "overjoyed at the idea that the team finally has a general manager.” Canzano: “A lot of this feels like it rests with Allen. He owns the team, and has final say on the major decisions, but it's been some time since the Blazers felt like they had a healthy exchange of ideas between owner and general manager” (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).

WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE CLIPPERS?: In L.A., Broderick Turner writes Clippers President Andy Roeser “has already begun the search" for a GM to succeed Olshey. Coach Vinny Del Negro, Dir of Player Personnel Gary Sacks and Roeser “will handle all of team’s responsibilities in regard to basketball operations” (LATIMES.com, 6/4). CBSSPORTS.com’s Royce Young wrote, “You’re already thinking it, but I’m going to go ahead and say it: Clippers [are] being Clippers. They re-sign Vinny Del Negro but somehow let the architect that built the franchise into a contender slip away.” Sterling is “notoriously conscious with his spending, and the Blazers are desperate in landing a high quality GM.” More than likely Allen and the Blazers “hit Olshey with a big offer that Sterling didn't want to match.” But with him gone and the team facing major roster decisions very soon with F Blake Griffin and G Chris Paul, "Olshey's departure may not bode well in retaining those stars” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger wrote when “pressed on a conference call about what was standing in the way of his staying with the Clippers, Olshey remained silent as a P.R. man stepped in and said that question had been ‘asked and answered.’” Sources said that Olshey “almost didn’t get an interview,” but Blazers BOD member Bert Kolde, Allen’s “right-hand man, arranged Olshey’s interview.” Berger noted Kolde’s role in the process “was important, since it was improbable at best" that the team President Larry Miller would "hire a GM with the same agent as dethroned Portland executives Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4).
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