On Sunday, the Trail Blazers announced that they had finalized a contract with incoming Head Coach Chauncey Billups. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Billups was always the favorite to land the position. More importantly, Fischer revealed that Billups’ rise to the head of the field was fueled by support from President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and star guard Damian Lillard.
Fischer explained that Lillard was “organically involved” in the Blazers coaching search. The report also discussed that Olshey’s previous comments that detailed a wide-ranging search for a new coach might not have been rooted in reality.
Otherwise, it seems Lillard was organically involved in the Blazers’ search, which does not appear to truly have considered the “20-25 candidates” that general manager Neil Olshey asserted it would. From the beginning stages of replacing Terry Stotts, Billups was always a name that Lillard and Olshey aligned on, sources said, and the Clippers assistant has received nothing but rave reviews around the league during his first year on an NBA bench.
According to a source in Fischer’s report, Lillard’s “on-the-record support” of Jason Kidd caught Blazers officials off guard.
After years of unwavering loyalty, Lillard has begun acting on his frustration with Portland’s inability to return to the deeper rounds of the playoffs. His on-the-record support for Kidd was something that Blazers officials were not expecting, sources said, until it was published and broadcast on social media. When Lillard’s comments surfaced, several Portland staffers were surprised his public support was not for former Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, whom he previously endorsed for Minnesota’s head job.
Fischer’s report also touched on Becky Hammon’s candidacy. Hammon, an assistant coach with the Spurs, received considerable support from Blazers chair Jody Allen. According to the report, Hammon performed well in her interviews with the team, but follow-up intel from the Spurs did not provide clear answers.
Hammon impressed Portland officials and was generally liked among Blazers staffers, sources said. But when Portland reached out for intel from San Antonio figures, the background on Hammon was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities. That sentiment has been echoed by sources around the league. Blazers personnel then cast doubt that Hammon was the candidate to steer the ship through such delicate waters with Lillard.
Blazers chair Jody Allen was the strongest champion for Hammon, sources said. Allen was energized by the idea of hiring the first female head coach in NBA history, also evidenced by the team contacting South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley.
In regards to a civil lawsuit stemming from a 1997 incident in which a woman said she was sexually assaulted by Billups and other Boston Celtics players, Fischer highlighted that the Blazers had knowledge of the allegation. As Portland’s coaching search reached its conclusion, Olshey’s established relationship with Billups may have facilitated the Blazers’ final decision.
Billups gave his version of events to Portland ownership, sources said. The allegation hasn’t prevented Billups from getting work in the past—at Disney, where he served as an analyst for ESPN, and then the Clippers—and he’s continually emerged as a vaunted candidate for roles in and around the league, though there has been significant public criticism this time around.
Billups’ longstanding relationship with Olshey, from which the executive brought the point guard to Los Angeles as a reserve from 2011-13, likely further factored into Portland’s thinking. That cleared the final roadblock in cementing this long-expected marriage with Billups and the Blazers.
The Blazers are scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow. On Sunday, Yahoo Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes released a story that downplayed Lillard’s role in the hiring of Billups.
You can read the full story from Fischer at Bleacher Report.