Neil Olshey Has Been Thrown Out by the Blazers for Workplace Misconduct

Former Blazers GM Neil Olshey Was Fired by the Same Organization That Hired Him Back in 2012.

Basketball has a glaring problem on the inside, a workplace problem.

Like Phoenix, this one festered really quickly. A problem so deep sacrifices had to be made.

In Portland’s case, that sacrifice was in the form of their President of Basketball Operations & GM.

The Portland Trail Blazers have dismissed President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Neil Olshey, following an investigation by the franchise carried out by the law firm O’Melveny & Myers into Olshey’s behavior in the workplace. The Blazers opened the investigation in early November with employees alleging a toxic, hostile work environment in which staff members were allegedly subjected to intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, and other bullying tactics, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The alleged mistreatment reportedly dates back nearly a decade and has led to mental and physical stress for employees of the organization. And this is not okay.

Olshey had been the franchise’s top decision-maker when it comes to basketball-related matters since he was hired in 2012, following a lengthy stint with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he held multiple positions before being named general manager. In a way, Olshey was around when disgraced former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was around treating the franchise like it was one of his real estate properties in Los Angeles.

After the Blazers decided to screw around and not make the postseason in Olshey’s first season on the job, they have made significant strides and have made the playoffs in eight straight seasons, including a Western Conference finals appearance in 2019, only to get suffocated by the national powerhouse Golden State Warriors. After losing to the Denver Nuggets, a division rival who had a MVP in Nikola Jokic, in the first-round last postseason, the Blazers fired longtime coach Terry Stotts, and Olshey hired All-Star point guard and broadcaster Chauncey Billups as the team’s head coach. That hire came amid questions about how the Blazers picked Billups over more experienced candidates like Becky Hammon and Mike D’Antoni, and concerns about sexual assault allegations lodged against him back in 1997. Of course, Billups never faced charges related to those allegations that came out 24 years later and settled out of court with the woman who accused him three years later. Also, Billups had never been a head coach before coming to the Blazers; he was an assistant with the Clippers last season under Tyronn Lue. So, one year as an assistant and this guy is a head coach? I mean, come on, he’s not Steve Kerr, but Kerr hired experienced people to build the team his way, not the other way around.

Olshey also drew criticism for the team’s roster construction, but he insisted that the first-round loss and poor defense were “not a product of the roster.” So, what is it then? Poor coaching or bad roster building? This guy is Sterling-Lite compared to the original. One time, late team owner Paul Allen banned Olshey from watching the game inside the arena bowl after Olshey flipped off someone from the Clippers organization after Blake Griffin nailed a game-winning 3-pointer, sources said. The incident was caught on television. Paul Allen was forced to act, so he put the jackass out of the stands and back to the office.

While the team was probing Olshey, they also saw someone walk right out when the getting is good: Team President Chris McGowan informed the franchise that he’s resigning, according to league sources. Dewayne Hankins, the chief commercial officer and executive vice president of the franchise at the time of Olshey’s workplace misbehavior and the success of the team, was promoted to president of business operations.

But once a few members of the organization were informed of perhaps one of the biggest decisions made in Paul’s sister Jody Allen’s tenure, on a Thursday night after a 31-point beating by the San Antonio Spurs, it became apparent:

Neil Olshey is done.

The Blazers released 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 around our workplace environment at the practice facility, the Portland Trail Blazers organization has decided to terminate General Manager and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, effective immediately due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Code of Conduct. Out of respect to those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it. We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment. Joe Cronin has been promoted to interim General Manager while the organization’s leadership conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

The Neil Olshey era was finally over. Joe Cronin, who holds the title of director of player personnel since 2014 and is the team’s salary cap manager, is in his 15th season with the Blazers. And now the Blazers will have to find someone who can repair the workplaces. Yahoo Sports reported that two strong executives are expected to be considered for the vacancy; Chicago Bulls general manager Marc Eversley and New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry. Both are personnel men who have been instrumental in building playoff-caliber teams, and each possesses vast relationships with players around the league. If Eversley is pulled from the Bulls, Executive VP of Basketball Ops Artūras Karnišovas will have to find a new GM coming off a successful summer of Free Agency. And if Perry takes the Blazers job, at least he won’t be breathed on heavily by ownership. The Knicks will probably replace him with one of their guys, especially if Leon Rose is running the show on Broadway.

As of this writing, the Blazers are 11–12, and are in Play-In territory in the Western Conference. The organization has put up with reports dating back to the summer of discontent from superstar point guard Damian Lillard, who has become somewhat mediocre at the start of the season. Despite rumors of potential trade demands, Lillard recently stated that he is “not leaving Portland” and that he is not going to “jump ship and bail out” when adversity strikes.

Now the Blazers will deal with the fallout from the Olshey affair and search for a highly qualified replacement, while the team attempts to make some noise in the Western Conference standings. It’s kind of hard though, especially if the Warriors and Suns are still that damn good. But just hope for the best.

Credit:

Trail Blazers fire Neil Olshey after investigation into his workplace behavior — CBSSports.com

NBA: Trail Blazers’ Chris McGowan resigns amid Neil Olshey probe (yahoo.com)

NBA: Blazers fire GM Neil Olshey after toxic workplace allegations (yahoo.com)

Portland Trail Blazers fire GM, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey (espn.com)

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Writer who is an Agree to Disagree kind of person. passionate New York sports fan.

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Matthew Hollie

Writer who is an Agree to Disagree kind of person. passionate New York sports fan.