Kevin Pritchard was seen as one of the brighest and best general managers in basketball. He helped rebuild the Portland Trail Blazers after the ugly "Jail Blazers" era and had the team trending upward as a contender.
And then he was fired on draft day.
It's always been a pretty odd circumstance, but one that appeared to make a bit more sense as his replacement Rich Cho parted ways with the Blazers less than a year after he was hired. Pritchard has remained mostly mum after he left Portland a little more than a year ago, but finally offered some insight on his time with the Blazers, why he took Greg Oden over Kevin Durant and a few other things. Via Sports Radio Interviews:
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.”
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.”
The Oden/Durant debate has long been settled, but it's never really been a fair fight. We don't know what Greg Oden would've done for the Blazers had he stayed healthy. Injuries are mostly just bad luck, and Oden -- and the Blazers -- has had plenty of it.
Pritchard said he still keeps a house in Portland and is still "emotionally tied" to the franchise. He was asked if he'd consider returning if Allen asked him to come back, and Pritchard said he would, even with what seemed to be an ugly exit. Obviously, that's not going to be happening. But if Allen's just going to rent another GM for a year, why not Pritchard again? At least he understands the deal.