In one of the more shocking decisions that I can remember in the NBA, it was just about one year ago when the Blazers fired General Manager Kevin Pritchard. That’s not the shocking part though as GM’s get fired all the time, especially when they pass on Kevin Durant to draft Greg Oden. The shocking part was Pritchard was fired just hours before the 2010 NBA Draft and still ran things for the Blazers that night. Following that night, Pritchard essentially disappeared and kept silent. During his year of silence the Blazers never figured out their front office and fired Rich Cho, the GM who took over for Pritchard. Even though Cho actually did a pretty good job for the Blazers, owner Paul Allen reportedly never established enough of a personal connection with him and wanted to go in a different direction. As the Blazers continue to look for answers when it comes to their front office, Kevin Pritchard finally decided to break his silence.
Kevin Pritchard joined 95.5 the Game with John Canzano to talk about whether or not he has had conversations with Paul Allen since being fired by the Blazers, what it was like to work for Paul Allen, whether or not the draft where he landed Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge was the best thing he did in Portland, the decision behind drafting Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant, and whether or not he would return to the Blazers.
If he has had any conversations with Paul Allen since being fired:
“You know I have not had that sit down or one-to-one with Paul after that day so no. A lot of people ask me why Rich Cho was fired. I get that question quite a bit. The honest answer is I’m not sure why I was fired so how can I answer why he was fired? So no, not really.”
What is was like to work for Paul Allen:
“He’s very complete in that he wants you to do the work and get to a certain place and then he’s going to challenge it. Quite frankly when we were going through complex ideas and what I don’t think people understand is that how much the draft is complicated. You go through all kinds of ‘if then what’ right? There’s just millions of those it feels like. He’s unbelievable at sitting in a draft room and going through a decision tree. Trying to figure out exactly what is going to happen. ‘If then, then what?’ He provided a lot of value with that and I learned a lot. He’s very demanding. Every single day, in the seven and a half years I was there, I’m not sure there were many days that we didn’t communicate at least by e-mail or by phone, but he’s very interested and I welcomed that. We had developed a great relationship the first four or five years I was there and we had an ability to talk pretty quickly and get down to the main issues, but he’s demanding and he’s tough.”
If the Draft where the Blazers got LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy was the highlight of his time with Portland:
“Probably not. I think there were other things that happened behind the scenes that maybe not so much at the forefront of the bigger decisions. In terms of the bigger decisions, absolutely. I think the thing to note is what you try to do is put processes in place to make the best decisions. Winning is a product of doing little decisions every, single day correctly. When I took over I felt like the most important thing every single day was to get processes in place so the decisions made were consistent. Whether it was hiring a coach, drafting a player, or trading for a player, I wanted a process in place and I think we did that. The one thing I would tell you is I was there seven and a half years and it was the best seven and a half years of my life. It’s funny because I woke in the middle of last year and I immediately woke up and I think we need to do this and I’ll think I’m not even with the Blazers anymore. It was hard for me to divorce that a little bit and it still is today because I’m so emotionally invested still in their success because I know everybody there.”
On why they took Oden over Durant:
“It’s the question that I probably get most. I have never studied a person or players like I did Durant/Oden. It was every single minute of every single second of their entire careers. We were going back into AAU and the one thing that kept hitting us really hard was Greg Oden lost three games until he got to Ohio State, then he got hurt again and only lost a couple there and that was over hundreds and hundreds of games. The overwhelming thing that we got from everybody we talked to was the cat doesn’t care if he scores or does anything, but he’s about winning. We had been really trying to change our culture for guys who really put the team first, not care about stats, and really be about winning. We thought he was the pick at the time. We did the same thing with Durant. They said he’s gonna be the best scorer in the league, he’s going to be an amazing player, and he’s gonna win. We just felt like Greg was going to be that guy that just doesn’t lose basketball games. Right before he got hurt we were talking as a management group and we were like man doesn’t it feel like this is becoming a little bit like Greg’s team because in the locker room after a loss he would get really, really upset and he demands out of his teammates probably more than any other player I’ve been around other than Larry Bird. When he lost, he let his teammates knows what they have to do the next game. We were feeling so comfortable going into the rest of the second half of the season that we were going to be good because Greg was coming along.”
On his tenure in Portland:
“A little bit but I tried to leave on the best terms possible. Sometimes in divorce it gets ugly. It’s tough and it was very tough on me. Emotionally you get scarred and again organizations are people and I have amazing friends and mentors within the Blazers that I care deeply. I want them to have a great year this coming year if they have a season and I will always be a Blazer now. It’s unique. I always attribute it to being at Kansas basketball. Basketball is important and I always want to go where basketball is important because basketball is important to ‘em. With that comes some difficulties. The intense scrutiny that you come under, I’m good with that because people care around here. That’s why I still have a house and still live here.”
Whether or not he would return to the Blazers if asked:
“Man that’s a tough question. My quick answer would be yes because I’m so emotionally tied. I felt like I had an opportunity and we had an opportunity to do something pretty cool and I wanted to finish it. I wanted to have the opportunity to finish it. people would say maybe you didn’t have the relationship with Paul Allen at the end but I will tell you this I enjoyed all the times because what you find out, I think this is probably one of the biggest things when you work for an organization is some of the tough times are important because you figure out who you are and who you want to be with. I don’t know if that’s the same in the newspaper or the radio business but we kinda felt like we knew who we wanted in the trenches and that’s fun because then you know you get to point the guns at everybody else and you’re going after everybody else. Sometimes that causes issues, but I enjoyed it. It was a great experience. I would say this, I think Chad Buchannan will be an excellent, excellent GM. He communicates, he cares, he’s a hard worker, he’s organized, and there are some things that he’s going to have to bolster, but that can be hired. You can bring in some experts and that. As a collective group I think they’re going to do a great job.”