I was going to talk about something else today but quite a few people are filling my inbox with impressions and questions about the Kevin Pritchard stories/allegations swirling over the weekend. Most are asking for some kind of reflection or sanity. I'm not sure there's much to offer, as the environment feels chaotic. Some of that is natural, given the situation. The organization has left itself open for a healthy dose of chaos. Like a hemorrhoid, this issue is going to flare up repeatedly until they get some Preparation H in the form of a new contract for KP or they have surgery to remove the issue altogether.
My question in all of this is the same one I had when Tom Penn was let go: whose sense of timing are they basing these decisions on? Does this guy go around asking out brides at their wedding receptions? Telling Knock-Knock jokes at funerals? Bringing whoopee cushions on first dates?
Let's assume that there's reason to let Pritchard go. I don't know that there is. In fact I'm kind of thinking there's not. But that's been argued copiously elsewhere. For the sake of this discussion assume that the team is justified in seeking a new GM. You're stretching out the break up so long that it's lingering publicly less than three weeks before the draft? Really? What the heck kind of performance are you expecting come June 24th? Even if the guy is honorable and believes his duty is to give faithful service until the last second he's let go, this has got to poison the process. How much enthusiasm will there be? How much six-steps-ahead, out-of-the-box thinking will come from a guy with one (unwilling) foot out the door? If you cared about that kind of thing, it's gone now. If you didn't then maybe that says more about the role you give the General Manager than it does about the people who fill the position. And this is the best-case scenario. The worst case is a nightmare session, either rudderless or contentious, on what's been the single most defining day of the off-season for this team for the last few years.
Even if a firing is justified there are two simple ways to do it:
1. The easiest way would have been to dismiss Pritchard (and Penn, by the way) the day after the season ended. You might not have found a new GM by the draft but at least everybody would have been on the same page moving forward for a couple months. The furor would have swelled early and then curiosity about how the draft would go would have replaced it by now. This is how most teams do things.
2. You keep your yap-trap shut COMPLETELY to everyone, including KP himself (and Penn, by the way) until after the draft is concluded and the long GM-vacation months begin. Yes, it's a surprise and shock to them. But that's the sports business. I'm pretty sure when Pritchard had to cut players he didn't telegraph the move for months in advance, let it dangle and rot, start trolling for replacements, and then finish the process with a final, sickly thud. You cut clean and quick then let it go. This is the less pleasant of the two options but if you're really concerned about leadership through draft day (which is the only conceivable reason to let it go as long as they have if his job is in jeopardy) you do it.
If by chance they're still considering keeping KP then the negligence of letting things get this far is even worse. Why let this hang at all then? Why not just make a statement that his job is safe until next year and everybody can go home?
No matter which way you turn it this scenario feels wrong, yucky, maybe even unprofessional. Why can't the Blazers just do something normally for once? Normal firings, normal contracts for coaches, normal negotiations with players...these things would be welcome. Remember the three-ring media relations circus of the Jailblazer era? Life would be so much easier if they'd stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just clear the road so we can concentrate on basketball.
This franchise feels like Rain Man, prescient in some areas but unable to fulfill the basics in others. I keep hoping to get some answers for this phenomenon, or at least to understand it more clearly, but God bless them...the actions of the office confirm rather than dispel the impression. Maybe we'll get something more definitive in the near future, but I'm not holding my breath. After all, Judge Wapner is on.
Oh well, for now I guess we just resign ourselves to following the most dysfunctional franchise on the planet.
P.S. Rain Man would have known to call "Heads. Definitely Heads" in that 1984 draft. But I guess that predates the current regime by four years or so. We can't catch a break.