Did Portland owner Paul Allen not enjoy the company of GM Rich Cho as they sat together during Trail Blazers games?
The Blazers disgraced themselves Monday in deciding to fire Cho after 10 largely successful months in charge. According to a reliable league source, Allen said he made the decision because he failed to establish a personal connection with Cho. That explanation was affirmed by the Blazers' news release, which described a relationship that simply didn't work out.
Cho received no warning he was about to be fired, I was told. Team president Larry Miller, who had recruited Cho for Allen, did not manipulate the dismissal. My understanding is that it had nothing to do with Cho's conduct, professionalism or job performance, all of which appeared to be excellent.
The Blazers had been struggling amid season-ending surgery for center Greg Oden and a career-threatening injury to star guard Brandon Roy when Cho made a marvelous trade in February. He packaged Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and a draft pick to the Bobcats for forward Gerald Wallace, a highly aggressive two-way star who instantly married himself to coach Nate McMillan's program while also redefining the franchise from a position of strength rather than weakness.
That move enabled the Blazers to not only make the playoffs but to threaten the favored Mavericks in the first round before losing in six games.
Recently, it emerged that Cho had been in favor of suspending Roy for an emotional outburst during the first-round series against the Mavericks. Cho was dissuaded by Allen and McMillan, and Roy went on to lead the Blazers to a thrilling Game 4 comeback win. But I am told that incident was peripheral to Cho's firing.
Allen's franchise has done a lot of silly things over the years, from seizing employees' hard drives in a Captain Queeg search for leakers of information to the media, to threatening action against rival teams that considered signing Darius Miles after he had been waived by Portland, to the firing of GM Kevin Pritchard on the night of the draft last year. All the executives involved in those instances served longer than 10 months.
This move is the least fathomable of them all. You fire a guy because you didn't connect with him? After not giving the relationship enough time to develop that connection?
Of course the owner can do whatever he pleases. This move says more about Allen than it says about the man he callously fired. I am guessing the next Blazers GM is going to be afraid to speak openly with the owner, for fear of a firing that comes with no warning, in spite of a job done well.
"Yes, Mr. Allen."
"You are correct, Mr. Allen."
"Whatever you say, Mr. Allen."
"Do you like me, Mr. Allen?"