The Trail Blazers fired president of basketball operations and general manager Neil Olshey following the conclusion of an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct.
Portland announced last month that it had hired the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to conduct a “full, fair and independent review” of the concerns surrounding Olshey’s behavior. Several employees alleged that the 56-year-old created a “hostile work environment,” according to a report by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
How did the organization deal with Olshey’s firing? And who could be his long-term replacement?
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Why did the Trail Blazers fire Neil Olshey?
Friday evening, Portland issued the following statement:
The Portland Trail Blazers are committed to building an organization that positively impacts our colleagues, communities, and the world in which we live and play. Following the conclusion of the independent review of concerns and complaints surrounding our work environment at the practice facility, the Portland Trail Blazers organization has decided to fire General Manager and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, effective immediately due to the Portland Trail Blazers violations. Code of conduct. Out of respect for those who frankly participated in that insider investigation, we will not disclose or discuss it. We are confident that these changes will help create a more positive and respectful work environment. Joe Cronin has been promoted to interim general manager as the organization’s leadership searches for a permanent replacement.
Trail Blazers staff members were allegedly “subjected to intimidation and profanity-filled tirades, among other intimidation tactics” under Olshey, according to Haynes. Several employees reportedly disagreed with Olshey’s treatment of employees.
Several staff members also “raised concerns about the organization’s alleged ‘mismanagement'” of the death of video coordinator Zach Cooper, according to Haynes. The 32-year-old died unexpectedly in April 2020. The cause of death was not disclosed, but The Athletic’s Jason Quick noted it was not related to COVID-19.
“This is a heartbreaking loss for the entire Trail Blazers family,” Olshey said in a statement last year. “Zach was a positive spirit, a tireless worker, and an outstanding teacher. My prayers go out to his family and everyone who loved him.”
Olshey had served as the team’s general manager since 2012 and president of basketball operations since 2015. Before joining the Trail Blazers, Olshey was vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers.
Who will replace Neil Olshey as the general manager of the Trail Blazers?
Joe Cronin will serve as interim general manager, but early reports have revealed some long-term replacement candidates:
- Former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge (by Chris Mannix from Sports Illustrated)
- Grizzlies vice president of basketball affairs Tayshaun Prince (according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report)
- Spurs VP of Basketball Operations Brent Barry (according to Fischer)
- Bulls general manager Marc Eversley (by Haynes)
- Scott Perry, general manager of the Knicks (according to Haynes)
Will the Trail Blazers change their stance on a Damian Lillard trade?
Olshey made some minor changes to the roster during the offseason, but I never considered moving Lillard. He consistently rejected the idea of trading the best player in the franchise, even after Lillard expressed frustration with the state of his team.
The next GM may come up with a very different plan, but it would be surprising if Portland opted to immediately pull the trigger on a Lillard trade. Despite some early struggles, the Trail Blazers are still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and Lillard hasn’t looked his usual while playing with an abdominal injury.
Most likely scenario: The Trail Blazers don’t make big decisions until the permanent DJ is in place.