When the Blazers came away with two lottery picks last week, they found themselves with key ingredients for turning the franchise around. Now, they have the chef they hope can cook the winning recipe.
Portland hired Neil Olshey as its general manager Monday, luring him away from the Clippers, for whom he served as the vice president of basketball operations for the previous two seasons. During his tenure in Los Angeles, the 47-year-old oversaw the acquisitions of Chris Paul, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, and Kenyon Martin among others, and helped lead the Clippers to the second round of the playoffs for just the second time.
Blazers president Larry Miller couldn’t help but admire his body of work.
“As everyone knows, we’ve been at this for a while trying to figure out who the right guy is,” Miller said. “We feel 100 percent confident we found the right guy. Neil is someone we targeted and been after for a while. He’s done some great things and is someone with a proven record.”
The hire comes more than a year after Portland relieved Rich Cho of his duties as GM, leaving Chad Buchanan to fill the position on an interim basis. Miller said on “Courtside” Monday that the organization still values Buchanan, and that Olshey is excited to work with him.
Olshey spent nine years with the Clippers, starting as the director of player development before being promoted to assistant coach, and then assistant general manager.
His hiring came as a bit of a surprise given news reports Friday, in which it was believed that Olshey had reached an agreement in principle to return to the Clippers. However, an agreement in reality was not reached, giving Portland an opportunity to lock him down.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to become a part of this successful franchise,” Olshey said in a press release. “Portland is a great basketball city with a rich tradition, an incredible fan base and committed leadership. I’m joining an organization that has a strong foundation and a bright future. I couldn’t be more excited and I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
The Blazers own picks 6 and 11 in this year’s NBA Draft, which takes place June 28. Portland owner Paul Allen has said that he wanted a GM who possessed “the golden gut,” and after flying Olshey out to London for an interview last month, thinks he found someone with such a gift.
“I am very pleased to have Neil as our new general manager,” Allen said in a press release. “He has the skills and the vision to successfully guide our organization into a new era of Trail Blazers basketball. He’s proven that he can quickly turn around a franchise, and we are confident he can do that in Portland.”
In addition to evaluating draft picks and trying to land free agents, the Blazers are still in search of a full-time coach. Kaleb Canales held the position on an interim basis after Nate McMillan was fired in March, and while Miller said that Olshey “has a relationship with Kaleb,” would not speculate on whether his chances of landing the full-time gig improved.
Olshey will be introduced to the media Tuesday, then will fly out to Chicago for pre-draft camps.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org