The Portland Trail Blazers have announced that president Larry Miller will resign, effective immediately. According to sources, he will return as president of Jordan Brand. The Blazers will look to fill his position, turning basketball operations over to GM Neil Olshey and business operations over to COO Sarah Mensah in the meantime.
Miller's tenure ends after five years, which saw never-ending executive searches, struggles with the team's television distribution deals and a series of public blunders.
According to sources, Miller and Mensah were both opposed to the hiring of GM Neil Olshey at times during the team's search process, which dated back to the firing of Rich Cho in May 2011. Blazers owner Paul Allen's key adviser, Bert Kolde, was the driving force behind the hiring of Olshey in June 2012.
"I lost that one," Miller told a confidante in recent weeks.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that part of Miller's hesitancy with Olshey was the presence of his agent, Warren LeGarie.
Speculation had flourished in recent weeks that once Blazers hired Neil Olshey as GM, Larry Miller's days as team president were numbered. The tenures of Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn had ended badly, and Miller had not been in favor of dealing with same agent on new hire.
Olshey, who had a successful run with the Clippers, was favored by Paul Allen advisor Bert Kolde during interview process, sources say. Once hiring process had been taken out of Miller's hands, it was only a matter of time before he stepped down, sources say.
Miller admitted that he never really felt comfortable in the spotlight and didn't expect as much media attention as he received, especially as his team cycled through general managers in a very public manner.
On the night of the 2010 NBA Draft, Miller tried and failed to crack jokes to lighten the mood as shocked team staffers were nearly in tears at the firing of popular GM Kevin Pritchard. He admitted in the following days that he found out that Pritchard was fired from a security guard at the team's practice facility.
Later blunders included referring to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan as "What's his name in Utah?" and not quite understanding how the NBA Draft Lottery worked.
Without question, Miller, who was generally well-liked by his employees, oversaw a tough time in Portland. Major injuries to both Brandon Roy and Greg Oden will obviously be the defining moments of this era in Blazers history. His major regret, he said, was not taking enough time during the hiring process of former GM Rich Cho, who was fired less than a year later. Miller resigns with the team's sellout streak intact but with its roster loaded with question marks. Despite setting his sights on profitability for the team and a deep playoff push, he leaves with both goals unmet. However, the Rose Garden is now LEED-certified and the Blazers accomplished significant work with their "Make It Better" community program.
The occasion of his resignation caused two league league to get in a few digs (here and here).
In recent years, Miller regularly told associates that he didn't "need" the Blazers job and that he he came to work excited by what he was doing and the responsibility that came with it.
"I enjoy this job," Miller told Blazersedge in March. "We've created and have a really good situation here. Just to be a part of and see how the fans have reacted to what we've been able to do here has been great. I'm happy. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I plan to be here, I plan to be here into the future until the time I'm not here any more."
Clearly, something changed and that time is now.
Jason Quick of The Oregonian has the following quotes from Miller.
"It felt like it is the right time, and the right thing for me,'' Miller said Saturday morning.
"My approach within the organization was to allow people to do their jobs and give support,'' Miller said. "I wanted to let everyone know their job was important and create an atmosphere of family, and I think people bought into that, which helped people feel good about the Trail Blazers again.''
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has this quote.
"I just think the the organization is in good shape," Miller told CSNNW.com. "We've brought in Neil (Olshey) and I feel like the organization is headed in the right direction.
"The moves we've made recently made it a little easier for me to go. We had a good draft, we've made great moves over free agency, our budget got approved by Vulcan and things are looking good for the future."
Here's the team's press release.
Larry Miller has resigned as President of the Portland Trail Blazers to take a job with a Portland-area company, the team announced on Saturday.
"I greatly enjoyed my time with the Portland Trail Blazers," said Larry Miller. "It was an incredible experience and I'll be forever grateful to Paul Allen for giving me the opportunity and honor to lead what I believe to be one of the best teams in all of sports."
Under Miller's leadership, the Trail Blazers recorded three consecutive trips to the postseason from 2009-11 for the first time since 2001-03. The Trail Blazers won 54 games and shared the Northwest Division crown in 2008-09, the team's first division title since 1998-99.
"The timing is right," said Miller. "We have an excellent general manager in place in Neil Olshey, so I feel the team is on solid ground and headed in the right direction. Off the court, business is great. The Rose Garden is packed every night and the passion of Trail Blazers fans has never been better."
Also since Miller's arrival, the Trail Blazers are riding a streak of 192 consecutive sellouts, dating back to Dec. 21, 2007. Portland has led the Western Conference in average home attendance for each of the past four seasons.
"It is sad to see Larry leaving the Blazers and I want to thank him for his leadership and contributions to the franchise," said Owner Paul Allen . "Larry helped manage a period of significant growth and I wish him all the best as he takes on this opportunity."
Also during his tenure, the Trail Blazers made significant strides in becoming a leader in sustainability among professional sports franchises. The Rose Garden became the first existing arena in the world to attain LEED Gold Certification.
With Miller's departure, basketball operations will report through General Manager Neil Olshey and business operations will report through Chief Operating Officer Sarah Mensah. A search for a replacement for Miller will begin immediately.
Prior to joining the Trail Blazers, Miller served as President of the Jordan Brand from 1999-2006. He's also held executive management positions with Jantzen, Kraft, Philadelphia Newspapers, Campbell's Soup, Converse and Nike.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter