Back in March, when the Trail Blazers fired Vice President of Basketball Operations Tom Penn, Portland resident and self-described "lifelong Blazers fan" Brian Libby started a petition to voice his support for General Manager Kevin Pritchard. As things have gotten bleaker for Pritchard over the last few months, Libby was quoted in a recent column by Brian T. Smith of the Vancouver Columbian expressing his continued support for Pritchard.
While the talk this past week has been about what trick Kevin Pritchard might have up his sleeve, Libby, arguably Pritchard's most ardent public supporter, has a trick up his sleeve too: He's organizing a draft night "Keep KP" rally and he's inviting all Blazers fans to attend.
"The LeBron James rally was a joke," Libby told me this morning. "This is very serious."
Libby's plan is to congregate outside the Blazers' Practice Facility in Tualatin at 3:30 PM on Thursday, where the team's war room is located and where the city's sports media will descend for draft night coverage. Libby will bring signs -- including one that will read "Trade Vulcan" -- but fans are encouraged to bring their own too. The group will gather at: 7325 SW Childs Road, Tualatin.
What moved Libby to take this public action? "I was just appalled and shocked from the very moment that I heard Kevin Pritchard's job was in jeopardy," Libby said. "I've lived through a lot as a lifelong Blazers fan, including the Jail Blazers era, and this to me is the worst decision-making the franchise has ever made... To me, this is a willful destruction of the franchise."
Libby sees Pritchard as the "total package" when it comes to being a successful NBA General Manager.
"First of all, he has integrity in a way that people like Steve Patterson didn't. He may be a bit of a media darling but he has created a very positive culture within the organization and he's clearly a wunderkind when it comes to draft day. I also like the moves he's made in free agency... Overall, he's brilliant at scouting and drafting."
"I'm hoping for bigger things," Libby said. "I want this team to commit to Kevin Pritchard. I know there are a lot of people out there that say it's already too late, but I'm still hopeful that he will remain as General Manager. If I really believed that there was no chance of him staying on, I wouldn't be involved in trying to stage this protest. I see that Kevin Pritchard is fighting for his job and part of me is optimistic because the team could have fired him before now."
Libby said the idea behind the rally came from a feeling that he couldn't live with himself if he remained silent during what he calls an "absolutely critical juncture in the history of the Trail Blazers."
"I think [the Blazers] take seriously the fact that there could be some degree of [fan] revolt if KP is gone," Libby said. "It's not to say that they wouldn't have sellouts next year or anything like that, but clearly a feeling of hope that exists for a championship window opening would be substantially diminished."
With roughly 48 hours until draft night, Libby seems a little amazed that this type of rally is even necessary. "To be talking about whether or not Kevin Pritchard should be retained based on the merits of his job is a ridiculous conversation to be having. It's not even in the same zip code as reality."
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter