As I wrote on Thursday night, now that he has been let go, the gloves are off and people are going after the former General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers Kevin Pritchard. While Pritchard was delivering a conciliatory and thankful address to Blazers fans over the weekend, he drew some harsh words from former Blazers President Steve Patterson on both 1080 AM The Fan and 95.5FM The Game. Patterson quite clearly has a dog in this fight; In this situation, it's far easier to question his motives than take him at face value, even if he is telling the absolute truth.
But Patterson is not the only person who has looked to rewrite the Kevin Pritchard era in Portland. This weekend, Brian Berger of Sports Business Radio drew on Patterson's interviews, Larry Miller's post-draft statements, conversations with anonymous sources within the organization and also his experiences and memories as a former Blazers employee to piece together an explanation for Kevin Pritchard's firing.
In the process, he winds up presenting an alternate history for many of the key moments of Pritchard's tenure: Pritchard didn't orchestrate the 2006 draft day trades, Pritchard preferred Adam Morrison to Brandon Roy, Pritchard and Roy didn't have a great relationship, Pritchard wasn't beloved in the locker room, Pritchard made enemies within the organization because of his penchant for taking credit for group decisions publicly, Pritchard owes serious credit to his scouts. Berger also presents an explanation for the timing of Pritchard's firing and some background on two shady characters: Bert Kolde and Steve Gordon aka Hat Man.
Berger posted the audio on his website but, due to its popularity, I was having difficulty streaming it there. If you'd like to listen, you can head over to OregonLive.com, where Sean Meagher has the audio available for stream or download. There is already some discussion going on in this FanPost started by Jawks.
Click through for the full transcript and a few thoughts at the end.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter
Here is a transcript of Berger's show. Some minor chit-chat back and forth has been removed but everything presented is word-for-word. A few thoughts at the end.
"On the outside, on the surface, Kevin Pritchard was the face, was the turnaround of this franchise. So many people were surprised: why is this happening? Why is Kevin Pritchard not the GM anymore?
"I want to talk about some of the people who make up the Vulcan organization. We talked about Paul Allen. We talked about how emotional he is. We talked about how he checks in and checks out, his attention span with his sports teams. Sometimes it's very important, around the draft time and the trade deadlines, he's very engaged. Other times, he's in Kenya, he's out on his yacht at the Cannes film festival, he's engaged with the Brain Institute, he's playing music in his band. This is a guy that has a lot of diverse interests. He's not sitting around all day long thinking about the Trail Blazers. He's a billionaire, he doesn't need to... What he doesn't do -- he doesn't always listen to the people he hires to make decisions. Sometimes he thinks he knows better than they do.
"Bert Kolde and Paul Allen were college roommates at Washington State University. They've been friends for a long time... Bert fashions himself as the executor of Paul's sports teams. He likes to be involved. If you call Paul a fantasy sports owner, Bert is right there with him. Bert is riding Paul's coattails and has been, frankly, since they were roommates in college. If you're going back and finding the lucky draw of who your roommate was in college, Bert Kolde won the lottery. Ever since then, he's had pretty good employment and gotten to associate with some interesting people. But the thing that some people might not know about Bert Kolde, and I know this because I used to work for the Blazers, Bert Kolde is a power-hungry person. He loves to rule by intimidation. He thrives on firing people. That's what gets him up in the morning. If you tell him, "Bert, go down to Portland and fire this person, fire some people," he's like a kid on Christmas morning. He can't wait to go down and fire some people. When I use to work at the Blazers office, if Bert Kolde was in the office people hid under their desks or they took long lunches because you knew someone was getting fired that day. Does Bert know a lot about anything? No, but he knows a little about some things and, again, he's ridden Paul's coattails.
"Steve Gordon. Who? Steve Gordon. He's become more of an instrumental player in the last several months. Some people may not realize Kevin Pritchard, he had his legs cut off months ago. Steve Gordon has been the go-between between Paul Allen and Kevin Pritchard. We all know Paul Allen and Kevin Pritchard didn't sit courtside together anymore, that was well-documented here locally. Hey, how come Kevin is watching from the tunnel? Hey, how come he's not sitting next to Paul any more? Their relationship soured months ago. So for the people that say, "Oh, Paul just came to the decision Thursday, an hour before the draft, to get rid of Kevin Pritchard." Come on. Totally inaccurate.
"Well, now you're asking, why was Kevin kept until the draft? Kevin Pritchard is a smart guy. Kevin Pritchard gathered intelligence for this draft. Do you want Kevin Pritchard taking that intelligence to another team? If you're Paul Allen and you fire Kevin Pritchard when you fired Tom Penn, he can get another job with another NBA team. He takes all his notes, all his video, everything with him. His knowledge. He uses that for another team, maybe it comes back to haunt the Blazers. But at the very least, Paul says, "I'm not paying Kevin Pritchard to gather intelligence for another team. I'm keeping him all the way through the draft. Once the draft is over, and I know he can't hurt me, so to speak, then we let him go." That's what happened. But the decision to get rid of Kevin Pritchard was made a long time ago.
"Paul Allen basically said, look, "I'm keeping you here until the draft is done, until you can't hurt me on the draft. And then your time is up." And that's exactly what happened. A lot of people think that was cold and calculated. It was. There are a number of things that took place with Kevin Pritchard that led Paul Allen to frown on Kevin Pritchard. And it became personal. I'm sure Paul Allen took a little bit of a thrill - and I'm sure Bert Kolde took a real thrill - in firing Kevin Pritchard on draft day.
"Fact or fiction? Paul Allen made this decision to fire Kevin Pritchard weeks before he actually fired him. As you heard Steve Patterson allude to, and as it leaked out into the media a few weeks back, there's a head hunter out there interviewing candidates. Steve Patterson said numbers had been thrown around. This is not something that was decided on Thursday. There were reports out this week that Paul Allen and Kevin Pritchard got into an argument at dinner on Wednesday night or on Thursday. There were people saying if Kevin Pritchard gets Chris Paul and pulls off a big deal, he might be able to save his job. No way. This was done. And the reason it was done on Thursday is because Paul Allen didn't want Kevin Pritchard to take his intel somewhere else.
"Fact or fiction? Warren LeGarie, agent, did a disservice to Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn when he came out after Penn was fired and said "this was a drive-by" and had many critical comments against Paul Allen. That's a fact. One of the things Kevin Pritchard could have done that could have potentially saved his job, according to people I talk with, if he had come out and fired LeGarie right after LeGarie made those comments and said, "this doesn't represent me or my beliefs," that would have sent a clear message to the Vulcans. There might have been an opportunity to repair some bridges. When that didn't happen it was the beginning of the end, the death row march for Kevin Pritchard.
"Fact or fiction? This is going to surprise some people: Kevin Pritchard was a beloved figure with Trail Blazers players. Fiction. Kevin Pritchard was not a beloved figure with his players. Don't get me wrong, the players don't sit around in the locker room all day long talking about Kevin Pritchard. But there was in fact a divide between Pritchard and several key Trail Blazers players. In fact, in some cases, it led to other people within the organization get involved to help negotiate contracts.
"Fact or fiction? Kevin Pritchard was the lowest-paid GM in the NBA. Fact. Kevin Pritchard, lowest-paid GM in the NBA. Some people thought he should have been Executive of the Year. Paul Allen, when he hired Kevin Pritchard, he basically thought, "I'm giving this guy his first opportunity, I'm giving him a chance to cut his teeth as a GM, I'm paying him bubkus..." Paul Allen spends more money on gas for his yachts in a week, than he paid Kevin Pritchard for a year. But by GM standards, lowest in the NBA. Why do I bring this up? Because Kevin Pritchard vented to several people, he wasn't happy about being the lowest-paid GM in the league. Guess what? If I was Kevin Pritchard, and I was pulling the kind of results for my team, I wouldn't have been happy about it either. But, again, Paul Allen said, "Hey, if it wasn't for me you wouldn't even have a job as a GM." Paul Allen owes Kevin Pritchard one more year but if Kevin Pritchard goes and gets another job, Paul Allen is off the hook for that money. $800,000 for Paul Allen - he blows his nose for $800,000.
"Fact or fiction? Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn were two peas in a pod, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Ernie and Bert. Fiction. You saw these guys around a lot. You saw them in the newspaper, you saw them at the draft workouts. They did work collaboratively to do deals and do contracts. But Tom Penn, we talk about Mark Warkentien and how he had an eye on this job for a long time... from people that I've spoken with, Tom Penn routinely tried to make Kevin Pritchard look incompetent in front of other agents and other people. It's no secret that Kevin Pritchard was not a salary cap expert. That's why he brought in someone like Tom Penn. I think Kevin Pritchard was smart because he brought people in who covered his deficiencies. He had an excellent scouting department. He had someone like Tom Penn who knew the nuances of the salary cap. Knew about trade exceptions. If he ever had a question, Tom was right there by his side. But from people I've talked to, there were occasions that Tom Penn kind of called Kevin Pritchard out on the carpet, in front of other people. That's not very professional. And I think that most people would be surprised by the fact that these guys didn't have a super close relationship. And yes they did share an agent but there are even some people that have told me that for a long time Penn had designs on Pritchard's job.
"Mark Warkentien was here for the Blazers during the Bob Whitsett era. It's no secret that Mark Warkentien has had designs on this job for a long time. You heard Steve Patterson say in his interview on Friday, Warkentien sent emails to the people at Vulcan. For someone that works for another team, he's had a lot to say about the Portland Trail Blazers and how they run their business, let's just put it that way. There were some people who said, "Hey, I think Mark Warkentien may be in the mix as the replacement for Kevin Pritchard." But we heard from Larry Miller on Thursday, look, this is the thing that surprised me. Larry Miller, who has been on our show, has been at our sports executive event, keeps things very close to the vest. When he was asked about Mark Warkentien on Thursday, his response was anything but close to the vest. That was my biggest surprise on Thursday. Not that Mark Warkentien wasn't going to be considered for the job. But to hear Larry Miller come out and directly address it. That was pretty telling to me.
"Fact or fiction? Kevin Pritchard orchestrated the Brandon Roy trade and the LaMarcus Aldridge trade in the war room on draft day. Absolute fiction. [Steve Patterson's] story is 100 percent accurate. We heard him talk about the fact that Kevin Pritchard and others in the room - there was division. I don't think Steve Patterson came out and said who Kevin Pritchard wanted. Kevin Pritchard wanted Adam Morrison. If it was up to Kevin Pritchard, Brandon Roy would probably be in Minnesota right now and Adam Morrison would be wearing a Blazers uniform. Wow. Where would this franchise be if that was the case? I don't even want to think about that.
"The thing that has angered people who have worked with Kevin Pritchard is that he's gotten credit for things he didn't do... he's gotten blame for things he didn't do as well.
"Kevin has always been good to me. He's always been terrific about coming on this show. My dealings with Kevin Pritchard have always been terrific. I think he's a talent evaluator. I think he's a good leader. He has a very positive, upbeat attitude. He really modernized how the Trail Blazers evaluate players. Those are all very big positives. But there were things that led to his demise. This wasn't just Paul Allen waking up on Thursday saying, "Hey, I feel like firing Kevin Pritchard today."
"Fact or fiction? Kevin Pritchard wanted Adam Morrison instead of Brandon Roy in the 2006 NBA draft. Obviously Brandon Roy was traded for. But did Kevin Pritchard want Adam Morrison instead of Brandon Roy? Fact. You heard Steve Patterson tell the story of the war room in 2006, the big day that many people think turned around this Blazers franchise. Some people talk about getting Greg Oden with the #1 pick. The day this franchise turned around was that day in 2006 when the Blazers walked out of the draft with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.
"Why is this important? This is important because Brandon Roy knew that Kevin Pritchard wanted Adam Morrison. From that moment on, very professional relationship between KP and Brandon, but let's just say that Brandon Roy never forgot that. Brandon Roy has always kept that in the back of his mind. He's played with a chip on his shoulder ever since. Remember in 2006 prior to that draft, there was a workout and it was closely guarded at the Blazers Practice Facility... Jason Quick, Oregonian reporter, had supposedly gotten a glimpse of what was going on in the workout. Who was in there working out? Why was it so important that that was top secret? Adam Morrison, Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, were in that workout. Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay were handing it to Adam Morrison. And the Blazers, who at that time, at least Kevin Pritchard, wanted to take Adam Morrison, didn't want anyone to know about it. There was an uproar, there were new security policies put in place about what you can watch and what you can't watch, and when you can come in the media room and when you can't. That was kind of the age of paranoia as well. That's why they didn't want you to see that workout. That draft room was divided.
"Some people have given Kevin Pritchard credit for that draft. Not true. Kevin Pritchard made the Sergio Rodriguez trade, as you heard Steve Patterson talk in his interview. Steve Patterson called the group together that morning - and remember Kevin Pritchard was working for Steve Patterson at that time. That morning, he said, "here's what we're going to do." And he outlined how the Blazers were going to trade for Brandon Roy and how they were going to trade for LaMarcus Aldridge. And then they went and did it. Not everyone in that room was in agreement with how that went down.
"If you're Steve Patterson and you sat here the last few years listening to people talk about Kevin Pritchard, the mastermind behind the Blazers turnaround, Kevin Pritchard the one who acquired Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, and you were the one who really did that. How would you feel if you were Steve Patterson? Probably not great. You'd probably feel like someone else was getting credit for what you did. And you'd be even more upset when the guy is getting credit for what you did, adamantly opposed your decision. Because he wanted Adam Morrison.
"And that's the problem. You have an owner that's not Marc Cuban. You have an owner who despises the spotlight. You have an owner who loves doing interviews, but by email. He is the wizard of Oz, behind the curtain. You see him at the games, you see him rooting on his team, but you don't really know what's he's thinking. You don't know why he makes the decisions he makes. He's a secretive person. When you don't have a face of your franchise and then you have a guy like Kevin Pritchard, who's very charismatic, very upbeat, very eloquent, and wants that role, you get what you got. Kevin Pritchard all of a sudden becomes front and center, which also leads to some behind-the-scenes politics. And some people having their feathers ruffled. And you have different camps, you have the Kevin Pritchard camp, you have the Steve Patterson and John Nash camp.
"Fact or fiction? Kevin Pritchard discovered Nicolas Batum, Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez? Kevin Pritchard has been given tremendous amounts of credit for taking the Blazers to the next age for looking for talent around the globe. When you hear about GMs that have a keen eye for finding talent around the globe, especially a diamond in the rough like Nicolas Batum, who frankly no one had heard of, you go back to that draft and very few people mention the name Nicolas Batum. Nicolas Batum was drafted by the Rockets and the Blazers stole him. Have you ever heard of Jason Filippi? He's as valuable as any member of the Blazers organization. He is the director of international scouting for your Portland Trail Blazers. Next to the San Antonio Spurs who have brought in Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker... Jason Filippi is probably the best international scouting director in the NBA. Jason Filippi speaks 5 to 6 languages. He and his brother used to be agents. They are totally dialed into Europe. He works mostly out of Italy. This guy knows the foreign landscape for basketball players as well as anyone in the world. Do you ever Jason Filippi out there? Hey, Jason Filippi discovered Nicolas Batum. He was instrumental in getting Rudy Fernandez from Spain to the United States.
"One of the problems people had with Kevin Pritchard is that they felt he didn't disperse the credit as much as he should have. I've heard KP talk about how his scouting department, how he has a great owner in Paul Allen, you probably read KP's letter to The Oregonian which I thought was a very class act, he obviously took the high road. I think he can leave with his head held high. But one of the problems many people in the organization and you heard Larry Miller allude to this in his press conference. "This isn't just Kevin Pritchard, this is a team, this is a team of people who make these things happen." Paul Allen has an ego, he wants credit for things. He wants to be the guy who is patted on the back by Blazers fans for spending money to bring people in, for making that trade that cost extra money. There are other people in the organization who felt like Kevin Pritchard is standing up there as the face of the organization taking credit for stuff that I did. There are also people who are shaking their hands saying, "If people only knew." Because the public perception of Kevin Pritchard and the perception inside this organization and inside of this locker room are two different things.
"That's why, ladies and gentlemen, we don't really know what goes on in board rooms and inside locker rooms. I'm trying to give you a little insight today but on a day-to-day basis we don't know. Some other media people will say they know, sometimes they do, more times than not they don't."
What to make of all this? Accusations, like firings, don't come from nowhere. The fact that the information being put out there is closer to a "trail of bread crumbs" explanation rather than a "smoking gun" explanation boosts its credibility. From everything I've gathered, there was not a single trigger moment that led to Pritchard's firing, although his reaction to Penn's firing probably comes closest.
Many of the things Berger puts forth are points that I have heard directly from people involved in the firing decision or people close to them. Some are stories I've heard told and re-told, circulating through media chats. Other information above I had not heard before, ever, and, in a few places, details conflict with information that I've received directly from people involved in the situation or information that I've personally experienced.
A key goal for us here is to provide as much information as possible regarding the team, the organization, and its employees and to let you decide. Like Dave wrote so well on Friday, arriving at a single "true" account simply isn't possible.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter