The Portland Trail Blazers plan to end their partnership with their single-affiliation partnership with the Idaho Stampede at the end of the 2013-14 season. The decision will end a two-year partnership that saw the Blazers run the Stampede's basketball operations while a local ownership group handled the business operations.
Last year, Stampede Managing Investor Bill Ilett expressed some frustration with the partnership because his team wasn't winning and because the Blazers were more focused on the long-term development of their players. Ilett would admit later than he needed to "take a pill and relax," expressing hope that the Blazers would send their players down for extended assignments. He also asserted that the Blazers and Stampede had "two cultures that need to come together" if the partnership was going to be a success.
Ilett discussed those comments, the decision to part ways with the Blazers, and what's next for his organization in an interview on Thursday afternoon.
Here's a transcript.
How did the decision come about and why was it announced in advance of the deal's conclusion and prior to the end of the regular season?
[The decision was made] in conversation with the Blazers and ourselves over a period of time, because they have this opt-out at the end of the second year. We've been saying, 'Do you want to keep with it?' They weren't sure, they needed to think about it, one thing or another. They said they would get back to us soon and they literally let us know today. It was their decision to announce it today, before the end of the season.
In retrospect, I think it was a good decision on their part because it gets everything out there. Something like this is a little hard to hide and you don't want to hide it. It gives us the opportunity to start to look at what we're going to do for next year. We made it very clear to one another that the Trail Blazers and ourselves are partners for this year and that we're going to continue on. We're on the edge of getting into the playoffs, we're in playoff position right now, we're all going to work real hard to put the Stampede in the playoffs and finish strong.
You made some comments last year that the Blazers and Stampede needed to have their "two cultures come together" for things to work out. Did that process ever take place?
I think my comments last year were appropriate for last year. To tell you the truth, we both worked very, very hard through the end of last year and this year, to work together. They have sent us some great players this year [Blazers' training camp invites Dee Bost, Dallas Lauderdale and E.J. Singler], you can tell by our record, we've done much better. They have been very, very helpful to us in winning basketball games.
Would you be open to entering a similar hybrid-style relationship with another organization down the road?
We like the hybrid arrangement. The problem is that the Trail Blazers, with their young team and philosophically with what they're doing, they haven't been able to use it that much. As an example, they've been able to assign one player to us this year for two games. In the entire D-League, there's been 150 assignments this year. Other teams have been in a position to use it more. Maybe they weren't getting the bang for the buck out of it that they felt. We like the hybrid arrangement. We feel it brings us closer to the NBA teams. It just makes the league stronger. We would like to go on with the hybrid.
By the same note, we were an independent team for 14 years in three different leagues, and we've been here a long time doing the same thing with the same ownership group, so we'll be back here playing basketball in Boise next year, one way or another.
The Blazers hired the Stampede's coaching staff. What's next for coach Michael Peck?
Mike Peck has done a nice job growing with this relationship over the two years. I appreciate Mike Peck very much. He's employed by the Trail Blazers so I don't know whether they would be keeping Mike Peck another year on something they're doing or if Mike Peck would like to coach the Idaho Stampede. I would certainly be an advocate if somebody wanted to do a hybrid with the Stampede, that they should talk to Mike and learn from his experience.
If we hybrid with someone, [the coach] is totally their decision. If we went independent and Mike was interested [he could be a candidate] -- I haven't even had a chance to talk to him yet. We'd certainly be sitting down and talking.
What has driven your team's success this season compared to when you were frustrated last year? Did the lack of assignments from the Blazers actually help the Stampede achieve continuity and win games?
Consistency of roster is not a standard in any D-League team. Players come and go with any D-League team. The Trail Blazers made a concentrated effort at the beginning of the year to bring in some strong players: Dee Bost, E.J. Singler, players like that, that were in their camp. They've stayed with the Stampede and nurtured them even though they aren't assigned players, they're players they have nurtured and it's made us a much, much stronger franchise than we were last year. It's the very thing I was disappointed in last year, but they certainly have done a great job this year for us.
In theory, those players could have been used in sort of a feeder system if Portland had suffered injuries or had to fill roster spots after trades, right?
Once they cut them from their camp, they aren't their property. We're running Trail Blazers plays, Mike Peck is in step with the Blazers coaches, obviously players who are with us would have a better opportunity to get a look-see than someone who is playing for the Sioux Falls SkyForce, unless it's just an exceptional player. It's the flow that comes from one of these arrangements. We feel it worked very well this year. The Trail Blazers, with their young squad, they maybe didn't feel they needed that another year.
Is there anything that you would do differently about the last two years?
I think it was growing pains the first year and a little bit of unawareness on both of our parts. We understand the pitfalls and the pressure points after going through this the one year of getting acquainted and then having a very successful partnership the second year. If [next year] we went with a team that hadn't had a hybrid relationship before, we could have a list of items to talk about ahead of time so that we don't catch each other by surprise. I could probably be a better hybrid for somebody now that I've had the experience level.
Do you have any other teams in mind when it comes to setting up your next agreement?
Well, not really. We haven't gone out and asked for anybody because we've been part of the Trail Blazers and still are. They've now given us permission to go ahead, because we didn't want to do any tampering. We'll just raise our flag up. 'Hey, we're open for business [to] any of you people looking for a hybrid.' And see if they are open to a partnership. People always say location -- will it be the Jazz or something? I don't know that it would be the Jazz. As an example, the Sioux Falls SkyForce in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are the hybrid for the Miami Heat. Geography isn't everything.
Any final thoughts on the decision and what's next on your end?
I respect the Trail Blazers on what they've done and how they're building an NBA franchise. I've enjoyed the time with them. I wish them the best of luck and I hope they feel the same way about the Idaho Stampede.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter