PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers signed general manager Neil Olshey to a multi-year extension on Thursday and named him president of basketball operations.
“Our team has made great strides under Neil’s leadership, and I am excited to extend his contract,” said owner Paul Allen in a release from the team. “Neil has done an outstanding job as general manager by quickly rebuilding our team into a playoff contender. The franchise is clearly on the upswing, and I hope to see further improvements in the years to come.”
Olshey expressed his gratitude to Allen and the organization.
“Paul’s been an unbelievable owner since the day I got here,” Olshey said. “He’s committed unlimited resources to rebuilding the organization. From the business division, the basketball, the coaching staff and he’s delivered on that.”
The new title, as of now, doesn’t really mean anything. Olshey will still be the top decision maker on the basketball side but the title does allow for the Blazers to either bring in or promote someone else to general manager.
The Indiana Pacers, for example, have president of basketball operations Larry Bird and a general manager in Kevin Pritchard.
Olshey likes the team’s general direction.
“I think the key was to prove to everybody that last year wasn’t a fluke,” Olshey said. “That the core of this team was capable of winning a championship and being a factor in the playoff race.”
The Blazers, as championship contenders usually are, have been rumored to be in the market to improve their roster, something Olshey has always said he will look to do.
“We’re only a third of the way through the season, but I think there are enough positive indicators to know we’re on the right track,” he said. “And we’ll look for opportunities if we can to improve the roster to give (head coach) Terry (Stotts) and his staff the ability of competing at a higher level. But at the end of the day we’re comfortable with where we are.”
On a personal level, Olshey came from Los Angeles and remembers the culture shock for both he and his family he came to Portland in 2012.
“I came up here and I joked a lot about the rain,” he said. “My kids love it here. I’m not so happy they decided to go to school in shorts in a T-shirt to school everyday when it’s 38 and raining but they’re Oregonians now.”
But ahead of a big offseason with LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews all going into unrestricted free agency, the Blazers have stability for the future.
“As long as the culture is one we’ve built and the one that they are embracing and performing in, that’s what’s going to make them make a decision hopefully to stay with us when they become free agents,” he said.
With the draft pick that was acquired by the previous regime by trading Gerald Wallace to New Jersey, Olshey drafted Damian Lillard with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
A month later he matched a lucrative contract offer by the Timberwolves made to Nicolas Batum. Toward the end of his first summer he made what some saw as a surprise by hiring the twice-fired Terry Stotts over Kaleb Canales, the Blazers assistant who finished the season as the team’s interim head coach.
In the offseason of 2013, Olshey outdid himself by getting Robin Lopez for the wholesale price of second-round pick Jeff Withey, a future second-rounder and cash.
He also brought in Mo Williams and Dorell Wright who were key players in the team’s first series victory in 14 seasons.
Following their exit from the 2014 playoffs, they signed Stotts to an extension.
The Blazers are currently 27-8 and have the second-best record in the Western Conference.