Rich Cho's Time
The search is over. The third interview, evidently, was the charm.
Rich Cho, 45, has today been named new general manager of the Trail Blazers.
Blazers president Larry Miller interviewed Danny Ferry, Randy Pfund, and then in Las Vegas at Summer League, interviewed Cho. I don't know what happened in that last interview, but it's become clear that Cho must have hit it out of the park.
After the meeting with Miller on Tuesday, he had a one-on-one interview with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen on Thursday. He was offered the job (the only candidate offered the job), accepted, and is now in Portland with his wife, and two young daughters, ready to take over as the 9th GM in Blazers history. After Portland's final summer league game on Sunday night, I met with Cho at a hotel in downtown Portland.
"It's so great to be back home, in the Northwest, and I can't tell you how excited I am," Cho told me, smiling ear to ear. "I'm humbled and grateful for this opportunity. There are only 30 of these jobs in the NBA. After meeting with Larry Miller and Mr. Allen, I felt the incredible commitment they have to winning. I knew I wanted to be a part of that."
Cho has spent the last nine seasons as assistant general manager of the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, and has been called the "prototype" for the next NBA era- "an executive who draws on a number of of backgrounds to come up with solutions," according to SI.com's Ian Thomsen.
Thomsen has also called Cho "the Swiss army knife" of the Thunder's front office, and the "next-generation GM."
Atlanta Hawks general manager Rick Sund says of Cho, "He's so smart with numbers and negotiations and the cap. And, he's an attorney and he's brilliant in finance, and he's a good people person."
Cho grew up in Federal Way, Washington, and attended Washington State. He worked for five years as an engineer at Boeing, before earning a law degree at Pepperdine. He actually started with the Supersonics as an intern, and was employed by former Sonics president Wally Walker in both the basketball and business offices. Cho would work on sponsorships with the business side, and would also assist Walker in structuring their basketball payroll. Walker and the Sonics then discovered that Cho was very valuable as a scout, and a natural "capologist."
So, is it indeed safe to say Cho is a "hybrid" of sorts? Atlanta's Sund told Thomsen, "Going back over my 30 some years in the NBA, I wish I'd picked up a law or business degree along with my understanding of basketball. I've been in basketball all my life, but the different dimensions Rich has- I wish I had them."
Cho just smiles and shakes his head when told of the praise that other league executives toss his way.
"I have 13 years of experience in the NBA, and have worked with so many great people," Cho told me. "I've got experience with the CBA, with the cap, have negotiated a lot of contracts, and have loved scouting players. I'm so looking forward to this opportunity."
While with the Sonics, Cho took this new age of scouting to a new level. He got together with a couple of Microsoft programmers and helped design and implement one of the NBA's first, and most advanced and comprehensive college and professional player-evaluation systems. It integrates player statistics, scouting information, and contract details. It's become the model that nearly everyone has attempted to duplicate.
The fact that the Thunder have thrived in recent years in acquiring top-level talent, while maintaining financial discipline, is no accident, and Thunder general manager Sam Presti has lobbed a ton of credit in Cho's direction. Presti recently told SI.com, "Rich is incredibly talented. He has great versatility in his approach and skills, and is someone that consistently thinks of the long-term interest of the organization."
Even though Cho has been instrumental in helping the Thunder get into a very enviable position in the NBA, he calls the decision to leave Oklahoma City for Portland "a no-brainer," and spoke over and over again about being humbled by the consideration.
"I am so excited to be a Blazer," Cho said. "I know the fans in Portland are great. I was lucky enough to be at the 100th-consecutive sellout last season. That really says something about the support and commitment."
Cho also says he'll hit the ground running, and is very aware of the situation with the Trail Blazers.
"It's a very nice roster, and we've got a very nice mix of veteran players and young guys," Cho said. "It's going to be fun to be a part of it, to try and make the roster even better, and take this team to the next level."
Cho will be introduced to Portland in a press conference at noon. He'll also be live, in studio, with us for Trail Blazers Courtside, from 6pm to 8, on Comcast Sportsnet, the Blazers Radio Network, and trailblazers.com.