Blog Entry

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

Posted on: May 23, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 9:40 pm
  •  
 
Posted by Ben Golliver

PORTLAND, Ore – For the second time in less than twelve months, the Portland Trail Blazers have parted ways with a respected general manager. On the night of the 2010 NBA Draft, word surfaced that the team had agreed to part ways with former General Manager Kevin Pritchard. On Monday, the team announced that it was doing the same with his successor – Rich Cho – roughly one month before the 2011 NBA Draft.

Cho, known for his salary cap acumen and analytical approach, made two moves of substance during his tenure, trading away guard Jerryd Bayless and trading for forward Gerald Wallace. He had meticulously planned his draft war room structure for months, turning a conference room into a think tank with flat screen televisions and white boards adorning all the walls.

He never got a chance to use it.

“I think the big issue was chemistry between him and the owner,” Blazers president Larry Miller told CBSSports.com. “They were just never able to click. Rich is a smart guy, a really nice guy, brings some talents to the table but I think if the chemistry isn’t right, it’s hard for it to work.”

Portland’s owner, of course, is billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In his memoir, Idea Man, released a little more than one month ago, Allen writes: “After replacing Kevin Pritchard (who struggled in the managerial parts of his job) with Rich Cho, we believe that we've found a leadership team that can get us back to the Finals."

And, then, Monday’s abrupt news.

“There wasn’t an incident,” Miller maintained. “I think we learned from last year, that sometimes it’s better when you know something, to move sooner than later. If we know this is not going to work, let’s not drag it out. Let’s not put it off, let’s just go ahead and move on it now.”

Cho declined interview requests, but did release a statement through the team's public relations department. "Obviously it's a difficult day, but I want to truly thank Paul Allen and Larry Miller for the opportunity they gave me here in Portland," Cho said. "I also want to thank the fans, players, coaches, business office staff and especially my basketball operations staff who have supported me along the way. I feel good about the work we've done here and I know the Trail Blazers are headed in the right direction."

Asked for Cho's reaction to the news, Miller said simply: "Rich was shocked."

While Cho kept a very low profile in Portland, rarely making public statements, at least two rifts emerged during his tenure. First, an apparent disagreement in how to handle guard Brandon Roy, who made critical comments about his playing time and role both during the season and during the playoffs. Second, a difference in public strategy in terms of handling injured center Greg Oden. While Miller said publicly that the team would likely extend Oden a qualifying offer this summer shortly after he underwent microfracture surgery, Cho remained tight-lipped, not offering a public statement until weeks later.

Miller said Monday that neither issue figured into the decision to part ways with Cho.

“I don’t know whether there were philosophical issues,” Miller said. “The whole deal about Brandon … that really didn’t play into this decision. That was something that was talked about with Rich about how we should handle that around Brandon. We kind of agreed that the best thing was for Rich to talk to him and let him know if something happened again, there would be a suspension. That was the extent of that. It wasn’t like there was any issue around that.”

As for Oden’s future, Miller said the management team was and is in lockstep. “I think we were on the same page, although I may have expressed it one way and Rich may have expressed it another way. From an organization perspective we were on the same page. If Greg does the things that we need him to do or that we expect him to do, then we are going to issue a qualifying offer to him. Rich may have just said the same thing differently than the way I said it. The reality is, even up to Mr. Allen, we’re on the same page.”

That timing of the firing and the quickness with which it came left many Blazers fans scratching their heads and others outraged at organizational incompetence. Indeed, Miller’s explanation about a chemistry rift is a 180 degree turn from previous statements. The team had publicly vouched for Cho’s ability to hit it off with Allen during his job interview and officials had regularly spoken about the new management group’s relationship together.

Miller acknowledged those concerns but chalked it up to a casualty of doing business. “I can understand how fans and people would say, ‘But you guys said this was the right guy.’ The reality is we thought this was the right guy or we wouldn’t have hired him. The fit is just not right. I’ve seen this in other business situations where I’ve worked before. You’ve hired someone at a senior level and you think that the skillset and they’re smart people, they have all the right tools to come in and do a job. Then, you hire them at some point into it you realize that they’re not the right person for that job. The difference is that this is a public situation but to me it’s not unusual. This does happen from time to time.”

The Blazers have no timetable for replacing Cho, and Miller noted that it’s “possible” the team enters training camp in the fall without naming a full-time replacement. In the meantime, the team’s Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan will serve as Interim GM. “I think we feel comfortable with Chad and the rest of the team out there as far as going into the draft is concerned.”

Buchanan, who has worked for the Blazers for seven years, leap-frogs over Cho’s two hand-picked assistant GMs: Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry. Miller says both men will remain with the team and are still under contract.

“Chad has been around here,” Miller said. “Even though their titles were different, their responsibilities were not that different. They all reported into Rich at the same level. The reporting structure was the same, it was just a difference in title. I wouldn’t say he’s jumping over them.”

Still, the situation is as bad as it looks. A team beset by injuries on the court and drama off of it.

Miller defended his owner from charges of irascibility. “Mr. Allen is determined to get this right. He’s determined to try to build a championship team here. Determined to make sure this team is going to be the best it can possibly be.”

Miller also brushed aside the notion that he’s serving as the de facto GM. “I do have some things I can bring to the table to help with some of those decision but the decisions are going to be driven by the basketball operations staff. I’ll be there to help and assist those guys in any way that I can.”

Whether or not Miller is correct that the team learned from its mistakes, it’s clear the organization’s leadership doesn’t want to be here again.

“We’re going to make sure we take our time and do it right this time,” Miller said.” I don’t want to go through another summer like this.”

Maybe the third time will be the charm.
  •  
Comments

Since: Jul 26, 2009
Posted on: May 24, 2011 12:28 am
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

Is Miller not going to support his boss?


As far as Cho,  seems to be a good guy but the wrong fit. It was a strange hire and one they seemed rushed into. I like the fact that  during the press conference and the folllow up interview with 1080 the Fan that they didn't put a time table on a new hire and want to get it right. I just hope they get it right. The interim GM Chad Buchanen is more than capable as they pulled off the Mathews signing.


As far as Oden they have nothing to lose by making a qualifying offer. If he turns out to stay injuy free he will be a monster, if not he eventuslly may be out on a disability. You cant just let him walk after this long for nothing.


At any rate The Vulcaan Empire has gotten a lot more interesting. Stay tuned.



Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: May 23, 2011 11:31 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

Once again some one in the front office loses there job because the team doesn't perform to the level it should.



Since: Mar 8, 2007
Posted on: May 23, 2011 10:32 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

@lee3022:

Not sure what bee you have in your bonnet regarding John Canzano, but blaming him (however obliquely) for Cho's firing says a lot more about your personal biases than it does about your basketball acumen.

Rich Cho was fired because that's what Paul Allen ordered.  The specific reason(s) why he issued that command is still in question, but the consensus so far seems to agree that it had nothing to do with Cho's skills as a GM... except his lack of skill in dealing with an owner who has serious ego issues.
Allen demands a form of obedience that doesn't sit well with some people, namely those who are good at their job and just want to be able to do it without interference. The best owners in any sport know how to manage a business: you hire the right people and get the h e l l outta their way. Allen isn't terrible at the first part of that, but he fails miserably at the second part.

There is serious reason for concern on the part of Blazers' fans, and that concern is exacerbated by the question of who Allen will hire now. Anyone smart enough and strong enough to be a GM, a job where you already have to have skin thicker than an elephant, is hardly the type of person who will want to work for Paul. If they're that smart, they can see quite clearly that the GM position in the Trail Blazers organization is crippled by an interfering, micromanaging owner with serious ego problems.

Would YOU tkae that job?  I know I sure as [Expletive Deleted] wouldn't.




Since: Feb 9, 2007
Posted on: May 23, 2011 10:09 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

2 General mangers in 2 years..  its chaos any way you spin it, and the ownership is WAY too involved at this point.  The franchise has been in decline since picking Oden over Durant.. a horrendous decison of epic propostions.  Blow it up and start over, but let the basketball people do their thing..  this team is not 1 year away.




Since: Nov 27, 2008
Posted on: May 23, 2011 8:32 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

Did the Owner of this team make microsoft huge in his 1st year only?



Since: Nov 27, 2008
Posted on: May 23, 2011 8:31 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

It took Michael Jordan seasons to get a ring. Even when Lebron made the finals in such a short time they lost 0-4. NBA is a cut throat business but tons of $$ should allow some patients. Personally the Blazers won't win a ring anytime soon like 29 other teams each year! Just add some superstars then gel and the wins will come. Right now they are good but give the magt some $$ to throw around and that is the only way they can get the big names and closer to a ring then they neutral team they have now.



Since: Dec 26, 2007
Posted on: May 23, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

This franchise is a disgrace. 



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: May 23, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Cho fired for throwing owner under the bus?

The Blazer community was once again stunned at the news. Rich Cho had orchestrated a popular trade to acquire Gerald Wallace this year. He was touted as a basis for renewed hope in Blazer management. What went wrong?

John Canzano went wrong. Perhaps Blazer GMs will never get this one right. Talking with Canzano (Oregonian columnist and renowned back stabber) can be seriously hazardous to your health. No, this was not over Cho wanting to suspend Brandon Roy. Close though. According to Canzano, Cho wanted to suspend and was overruled by owner Paul Allen and coach Nate McMillan. What went wrong was Cho suppsedly confirmed to Canzano that he did want to suspend Roy. Big mistake. Paul Allen wants to be the man and make the decisions. He deserves to do this. But he does not want confirmation of this. He does not want another owner-GM controversy after last year. But he got one.

So if you are Paul Allen and you are maintaining a low profile and are outed by your general manager what do you do? He got his controversy anyway and now might just as well go all the way and can the guy. Perhaps that was his thinking. Perhaps none of this had anything to do with the surprise owner-conflict cited by President Larry Miller. But for whoever succeeds Rich Cho, I offer this advice: when John Canzano calls just hang up. Canzano is fully capable of creating his own quotes for you whether he speaks with you or not. No sense making his job easy.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com