SBD/July 9, 2012/Franchises

Trail Blazers President Larry Miller Resigns, Rejoins Jordan Brand

Miller drew criticism after his role expanded to include more say in basketball ops
The Trail Blazers on Saturday announced that President Larry Miller has resigned. With his departure, basketball operations will report through GM Neil Olshey and business operations will report through COO Sarah Mensah. The search for Miller's replacement will begin immediately (Trail Blazers). In Portland, Jason Quick noted Miller "had two years remaining on his contract with the Blazers." He will "rejoin Nike later this summer as president" of Jordan Brand, the same title he held from '99-06. Miller was an "understated leader who preferred to stay out of the limelight while allowing his employees to do their jobs." His style "improved morale and bridged a divide between the front office and fan base after the rigid and confrontational reign of Steve Patterson, his predecessor." Miller also "served on the NBA board of governors in owner Paul Allen's stead, and was on the labor committee during the negotiations for the league's new collective bargaining agreement." He drew "criticism in the past year when his role was expanded to include more say in the basketball operations of the franchise in the wake of the firing" of GM Rich Cho. During the GM vacancy, Miller "became the voice of the franchise, a role with which he was uncomfortable." His specialty "was numbers and finance ... and during his tenure, the Blazers books became stabilized" (OREGONLIVE.com, 7/7). NBA.com's David Aldridge notes Miller "came to Portland at a time of great financial turmoil for the franchise, and helped to get that stopped." However, he also "was in the middle of internal conflicts between the team's ownership group and the basketball people, and that never really stopped." Aldridge: "The handwriting was on the wall when the Blazers hired Neil Olshey from the Clippers to run the basketball side; he wasn't Miller's choice. But Larry is a good guy who probably will do better back at Nike than having to be the public face of a sports franchise" (NBA.com, 7/9).

BACK TO BASICS: In Portland, John Canzano wrote since Bob Whitsitt left the job of president and GM in '03, the Blazers "have not been about basketball." The Blazers have "been first about marketing, ticket sales and sponsorships," and "ideally, you get those things." Canzano: "But when you allow the business to drive the basketball instead of the other way around, we've learned, you don't have the chance to meet potential." Successful sports franchises "are smart enough to understand that business has its place, and that spot is trailing comfortably in the wake of a winning basketball team that plows deep into the hearts of a community, opening doors and paving opportunities." Olshey is "a basketball-first guy." It is "incumbent upon Allen to find a president who is also a basketball-first person." Canzano: "Let the basketball drive the business again" (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/8).
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