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Portland Trail Blazers founder Harry Glickman dies at 96

He played vital role in franchise from 1970-94

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Former Trail Blazer president Harry Glickman, left, embraces Bill Shonley, right, during ceremonies before the start of a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon Wednesday October 14, 2009.
Former Trail Blazer president Harry Glickman, left, embraces Bill Shonley, right, during ceremonies before the start of a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon Wednesday October 14, 2009. (The Columbian/Troy Wayrynen) Photo Gallery

Harry Glickman, the founder of the Portland Trail Blazers, died on Wednesday. He was 96.

Glickman brought professional basketball to the Portland-Vancouver area when he led an effort to purchase an NBA expansion franchise.

The Portland Trail Blazers were born after Glickman’s ownership group paid the NBA’s $3.7 million expansion fee in 1970.

A Portland native, Glickman served as executive vice president from 1970-87, including five years when he was also general manager. He became the team’s president in 1988, the year he sold the franchise to Paul Allen, until his retirement in 1994.

“The Trail Blazers have long been the beneficiary of Harry’s vision, generosity, and inspiration,” said Blazers chairwoman Jody Allen in a statement released by the team. “As the team’s founder and first General Manager, his leadership was instrumental in igniting our city’s pride and passion for sports. I am grateful for Harry’s many contributions to the franchise over the years. He will be missed by many.”

Glickman orchestrated some of the most notable feats in Blazers history, including the team’s lone NBA championship in 1977. Buring his tenure, the Blazers set an American professional sports record by selling out 814 consecutive home games.

After graduating from the University of Oregon and serving in the U.S. Army, Glickman’s Oregon Sports Attractions promoted a wide range of events in the 1950s. That included an annual NFL exhibition game at Multnomah Stadium (now Providence Park), the Shrine Football Game, the Harlem Globetrotters, and world championship boxing via closed-circuit television. Glickman also served as general manager of Multnomah Stadium in 1958 and 1959.

In 1960, Glickman founded the Portland Buckaroos hockey team that played in the newly built Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. In the 12 seasons with Glickman at the helm as the club’s co-owner and president, the Bucks advanced to the Lester Patrick Cup championship seven times, winning three, including the inaugural 1960-61 season, and set numerous attendance records.

In 1964, Glickman had the assurance of an NFL expansion franchise from friend Pete Rozelle, who had become Commissioner, but Portland voters rejected the proposed 40,000-seat Delta Dome by a mere 10,000 votes.

Due to the postponement of the NBA season, the Blazers will announce how they plan to honor Glickman at a later date.

Glickman is survived by his wife, Joanne, son Marshall, daughters Jennifer and Lynn, grandsons Joel and Laz, and granddaughter Sydney.

There will be a private burial service for Glickman. A public memorial service will be held at Congregation Beth Israel at a later date.

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