Jason Quick of The Oregonian announced Tuesday that he would no longer cover the Portland Trail Blazers and would instead cover the University of Oregon's football team. Quick had covered the Blazers as a beat writer and columnist for 13 years.
In a candid interview with Blazersedge conducted Tuesday afternoon, Quick discussed his decision and reflected upon his time covering the team.
Blazersedge: Congratulations, but I almost feel sad, like I should be trying to talk you out of this.
Jason Quick: "Yeah, me too. It's not how I wanted it to go down.
"Just to give you some background, I went in sometime in the summer, after I got back from Omaha [covering the College World Series]. And it's probably about the third or fourth time in my tenure that I've asked to come off [the Blazers] but the problem was in the previous years there wasn't anything else I really wanted to cover, because they weren't ready to give me a columnist's job. I gave them a proposal of what I wanted my role to be. It included an enterprise reporter -- columns, take-outs, profiles, it's some perspective pieces, that type of stuff. I was going to hop around different areas, Timbers, high school, Blazers. Blazers was going to be my anchor place just because there was so much interest, I would hit that quite a bit. But I wouldn't have to be there every day, that's what I wanted to get away from. When I was in Omaha it was refreshing to have great access and have great conversations with subjects, I was able to tell stories again. I kind of felt I was losing some of that on the Blazers beat.
"They [the editors] agreed to that, that's what I was going to do. That was going to be my role this year. Four days before the Ducks started camp, Aaron Fentress, our Ducks beat guy, said that he had been offered a job by Comcast and he was thinking about taking it. It happened much earlier than that but it got to the point where he it looked like he was going to leave.
"It's partly my fault, because I said, 'If you need someone in a bind, I can do that job, I've done it before, it's what I did right before I started doing the Blazers.' They called me on the Friday before camp started and they said we'll need you down in Eugene on Monday. Ever since, I've been doing it. Today, Aaron finally pulled the trigger and told them he's definitely taking the job with Comcast."
Blazersedge: How long will you cover the Ducks?
Jason Quick: "For this football season. I'm not going to do Oregon basketball, I don't think. I've been told I'll do the Oregon football season and we'll go from there."
Blazersedge: Is it fair or unfair to say that the move is related to The Oregonian's recent layoffs?
Jason Quick: "Oh, it's totally not fair. It's not fair because we had everything mapped out and then Aaron got the job offer from Comcast. But I guess we were a little more hamstrung because we didn't have other people we could just plug in there. We just hired somebody to replace Adam Jude, who left the Oregon beat for the UW beat. We hired Andrew Greif. I don't think they felt like they had time and the available bodies to plug someone in so they wanted someone with experience they could plug in. For our readership, the Ducks are either more or about the same as the Blazers as far as hits."
Blazersedge: What were the factors that led you to ask off of the Blazers beat over the years?
Jason Quick: "I think it had become stale to me a little bit in a way. I think I just lost faith in a lot of the NBA. I've seen a lot of bull----. From putting your heart and soul into a player and believing him when he talks about kissing his kids at night and all that, then you write that, and the next road trip you see him with somebody that's not his wife, basically getting it on. That's disheartening to me. There's a lot of times where you hear a bunch of bull---- from these guys, it's hard to believe anything.
"There was a time when I really, really enjoyed this beat. 2008-2009, around the time they had the 13-game winning streak [in 2007] and the year after that, that was by far the most fun I ever had at my job. There was a closeness with the team, a drive I had, a vision. But I think what made that special was a bunch of guys on their rookie contracts. I've seen how money changes players, changes their attitudes, so I think over time it eroded the goodwill that I had, pursuing stories because you want to believe what you're writing, you know? There's just too many instances where I would buy into it and down the road realize it was all bull---."
Blazersedge: What's your first impression of the Oregon football program, along those lines? Is it the contrast you expected?
Jason Quick: "[The access] sucks. It sucks. It's awful. It's horrid. On the Oregon beat, the kids are awesome. There hasn't been one guy that I've talked to that hasn't been engaging, well-spoken, polite. Every kid I've talked to I've been really, really impressed with. The coaches, on the other hand, I can't say the same. They're almost trying to be difficult. It's frustrating. It's obvious they have no respect for our profession.
"Turning that back on the NBA, the NBA actually has awesome access, the shootarounds, the pre-game, the post-game, we're allowed in the locker room. I think in the new regime with the Blazers, that was one of the frustrations. [GM] Neil [Olshey] has limited some of the access, particularly at practice, we can't inter-mingle like we used to, which is a way I use to formulate story ideas and formulate trust, bonds and interaction. That's been eliminated.
"It's kind of funny because I'm leaving at a time -- I think Terry Stotts is the best coach I've ever covered, he's really bright, I think he's a great coach, he's a bright individual, he's got such a great scope. You can sit and just BS with him, he will give you that access. Terry will sit for 45 minutes after a practice and just BS, talk to you about a story. I think the thing I liked best about Terry, he read everything, everyone there at practice, he had probably read what they wrote the night before and would sometimes comment on it. I think that's pretty rare and refreshing. He got it.
"I know a lot of people in the media don't like [Neil]. There's something about him that I like. I think he's sharp. It's his way or the highway, and if you don't like it, too bad. I definitely didn't like a lot of the things, his policies, but I respect him.
"It's weird to be leaving at a time where I feel really good about the guys in charge. I love my working relationship with both of them. As you well know, I haven't had the best working relationship at times with the front office and coaches. I would hope that throughout the times that those people respected me at the end of the day."
Blazersedge: What was the lowlight, the worst moment?
Jason Quick: "Oh man, it had to be during the Steve Patterson, John Nash era, where they started recording our interviews. I remember the first time they implemented that policy, they had [director of communications] Mike Hanson tape-record an interview I did with Steve Patterson. Mike Hanson screwed up the transcript, I can't remember exactly what it was. ... I'd have to go back. He screwed it up. They put it on their website. I went back and fought it, 'No, no, listen to my tape.' They were like, 'Well, yeah, you're right.' That was pretty interesting. Definitely that whole era.
"Shoot, I learned so much on that beat. I was a 30-year-old kid, you know? There's a lot of lessons that I learned. I think I walked into a pretty rough locker room with Rasheed [Wallace], Bonzi [Wells], Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Dale Davis. Dale was great, though.
"Damon Stoudamire gave me a great piece of advice early. He told me that I was going to get a lot of heat from these guys. At the time, I was getting a lot of heat from the players, they would throw balls, Rasheed was shooting rubber bands at me during interviews. [Stoudamire] said, 'These guys will respect you more if you tell the truth. They might outwardly show that they're upset with you and that they think you're full of ---- but deep down they know what's right. If you write it, they'll respect you.'
"I always tried to lead my coverage that way. Write what I knew was right. No matter if it pissed someone off or not. I don't see a lot of that today. I see a lot of guys trying to be buddy-buddy with the players."
Blazersedge: What's your favorite piece that you wrote? I think people will assume it was something to do with Brandon Roy.
Jason Quick: "Yeah, maybe the one when they amnestied him. That was an emotional one. I think I got choked up, I was pretty tight with him through his tenure here. I remember getting a little choked up. [What] I was most proud about that -- that happened at 5 o'clock at night, I think it was an hour and two minute interview and I turned around and wrote that on deadline. I was pretty pleased with that piece.
"But I think probably looking back, coming up with and executing the 'Behind The Locker Room Door' [series], I'm most proud of that. At the time, no one was really doing anything like that. It took a ton of work. I was covering the game, doing blog posts, and going back to the hotel room writing until 3 in the morning to get that up, then going to catch a flight, and doing it all over. I started it on a road trip in Cleveland and LaMarcus [Aldridge] had a concussion there. One of the pieces in Milwaukee... I remember the whole road trip being a blur because I was on zero sleep, writing 4,000 words a night. I ended up being really proud of that. That's what I'm most proud of, my favorite stuff."
Blazersedge: Who fills the hole?
Jason Quick: "Joe [Freeman] and [Mike] Tokito will remain on the beat. I'm not sure if they will open that up for another position or not. I haven't asked."
Blazersedge: So, in February, when the Ducks are done, are you going to be back at the Rose Garden?
Jason Quick: "I don't know. Right now, I'm scheduled to go to the Olympics in February. I don't know if I'm going to do it. I'll definitely be at the Rose Garden, it would be fun watching a game and not having to work at it for once. But I imagine if this team makes a playoff push, I imagine I'll be behind a keyboard. I don't know."
Blazersedge: Any other reflections on why now is the time to move on?
Jason Quick: "One thing that really hurt was last summer. As far as, 'Why am I doing this? Why am I spending so much time...?'
"Nicolas Batum was probably one of my favorite players on this current team. I felt like we had a really good relationship. When he was going through all that crap, the Minnesota stuff. I ran into him downtown, right there at Director's Square, by the waterfalls and stuff.
"During the interview, his agent Bouna [Ndiaye] calls, what a piece of work he is. Bouna asks him what he's doing and he says, 'I'm talking to Quick.' Bouna tells him, 'Don't, stop talking to him, don't run anything.' Nic gets off the phone, he says, 'My agent doesn't want to run what I just told you.' It was basically the same thing that he told David Aldridge about a month or so later.
"He said, 'But when it comes time, you'll be the first person I'll call.' We shook hands, he put his other hand on our two embraced hands, and he said, 'Trust me. Trust me. Have I ever done wrong by you?' I was like, "Nic, I don't know about this. You said this was on the record and you're asking me not to do it.' He's like, 'Quick, trust me. Have I ever done wrong by you?' His hands are over our hands shaking.
"For the rest of the summer it was nothing. I had his number, texting, calling, all that. The next training camp, he gets back, I don't talk to him. I didn't talk to him until the second game of the year, all through training camp, media day, I didn't say a word to him. He was asking Joe, 'What's wrong with Quick? Is he mad at me? What's going on?'
"Finally we talk in Oklahoma City. He had a s---- game. You can go back and look at what I wrote. He said, 'Are you mad at me?' I said, 'Yeah, you know exactly why.' He said, 'I know, even my girlfriend said it's not right. I'd never been through something like this. My agent was telling me this.' At the end, I got over it.
"It was just like, 'Why trust these guys? Why have faith in these guys?' If there was a guy I trusted and had faith in being a good person it was Nic. That was like, 'What am I investing so much time into this for?' I've given a lot of time to this beat, that was a real... that was when things really started shifting for me.
"The fans too. They piss me off. I feel like I get so much unwarranted ----. A lot of this stuff, I can't say where I'm getting it from. Just trust me. I don't want to get into it. I feel like people don't understand this profession. A lot of times when you're writing stuff, you know it, you just can't reveal who it's coming from."
Blazersedge: Any final message to fans? Anything else to get off your chest?
Jason Quick: "I don't know. I've probably already said too much. ... I will say this. It sounds so cliche but I do think the Blazers fans are among the best in the NBA. I've traveled to every arena. I've seen how other cities support their team. Portland is incredible. I could count 20 times when the energy in the Rose Garden has given me goosebumps. I mean literally. That's a pretty special thing. There's not a better place to be in Portland than the Rose Garden when it's rocking. It can be pretty special. I'm sure I'm going to miss that a lot. I don't want to get into all the criticism I take and stuff, that's part of the job. You have to have thick skin to do this job. Sometimes it can get to you."
Blazersedge: All right, I'll see you on day one of training camp.
Jason Quick: [Laughs] "No you won't. No you won't."
PS I wrote a bit all the way back in 2008 about Quick's unique abilities and role covering the team. His departure leaves a huge hole. He will be missed.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter