Following a season in which the Portland Trail Blazers finished with the worst record in the NBA (21-61), the team announced on Tuesday evening at 10:15 p.m. that they would not extend general manager John Nash’s contract.
Team president Steve Patterson will serve as the interim GM while the team begins a search for a replacement.
“We want to go through the process and make a sincere search,” Patterson said during a brief mid-morning press conference at the Blazers’ practice facility in Tualatin. “I will be the acting GM.”
Patterson refused to set a timetable for the search to replace Nash and he bristled at the idea that Nash was being used as a scapegoat for the Blazers’ recent woes.
“Anytime you only win 21 games, there are a lot of issues,” Patterson said. “We all accept responsibility.”
Patterson credited Nash’s firing to an “evolution process.”
“We’ve now made changes in the coaching situation, the GM situation and the players on the floor,” Patterson said. “John in many ways had a thankless job. And Paul [Allen] and I had many discussions in which we had talked about this. In fairness to John, we wanted to make this decision in a timely manner.”
And while Patterson said that he had contacted Blazers’ head coach Nate McMillan to inform McMillan of the situation, he refused to divulge McMillan’s reaction.
“Yes, I spoke to Nate,” Patterson said. “But that’s privileged information.”
In a written statement, Nash expressed his “deepest gratitude to the Trail Blazers organization for the opportunity afforded to me to be a part of this team and this community over the last three seasons.”
During Nash’s tenure as GM, the team’s record declined each year.
Joining the Blazers in 2003, Portland went 41-41 in Nash’s initial season. It was the first time in 21 years that Portland failed to make the playoffs.
And while under Nash’s guidance the franchise traded away fan-favorites-turned-malcontents Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells. Following an attempt to clean up the Blazers’ image and free the team of heavy contracts, Portland dropped to 27-55 in the 2004-05 season.
Then, this year, Portland posted its second-worst record in franchise history. Nash was also the driving force behind the team’s “youth movement” as of late.
The Blazers used their first-round picks in the last two seasons to draft players straight out of high school (Sebastian Telfair and Martell Webster).
At the same time, Portland committed itself to lucrative long-term contracts with Zach Randolph, Darius Miles and Theo Ratliff – all of whom have spent extended periods on injured reserve in the last two years.
“This is a tough day and a tough decision,” Patterson said. “But this is part of the process to try and remake this franchise into something that the city of Portland and the team’s fans can be proud of.”
Patterson also announced during the conference that the team had re-signed the Blazers’ director of player personnel, Kevin Pritchard.
“Kevin should be with us for the next one and a half years,” Patterson said. “And he will be a candidate for the GM position.”
Pritchard will also be in charge of the team’s moves in the upcoming NBA draft on June 28.
Portland has the fourth and 30th pick in the first round, and the first (31st overall) in the second round.
Patterson deflected the notion that the lack of a proper GM would hurt the Blazers’ decision-making process in the draft.
“We have all sorts of automation, computer programs and databases that we will use to help us,” Patterson said.
As for the Blazers’ current focus regarding on-the-court issues, Patterson pointed to the team’s ability to groom its young players and to “re-sign Joel [Pryzbilla].”