May 23

Trail Blazers Release Cho: Press Conference Transcript

By sarahhecht
I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now. Rich Cho and the Portland Trail Blazers parted ways today.

Following the announcement, President Larry Miller addressed the media:

“Good afternoon. I’m sure you all are aware by now the the team has decided to part ways with Rich Cho. I just want to start out by thanking Rich for all of the efforts that he gave us in terms of the things that he helped this team to do while he was here. And we decided that there was an issue as far as chemistry and fit and based on where we were in assessing this for some time. The decision was made to move sooner rather than later in terms of separating with Rich. Also, as was mentioned, Chad Buchanan is going to move into the acting GM role and we’re, I’m 100 percent confident that Chand and the team out there in Basketball Operations will be able to get us through not only the draft but any other things that we need to get done from a basketball operations perspective. We will be launching a search at some point to fill the GM role, but we’re not going to be in any rush to do it. We are going to step back and totally assess the situation and look at what the criteria is to bring the right person into this role before we do it. So we’re not going to have a timeline, we’re not going to be rushed, we’re going to basically take our time and bring the right person into this role sometime into the future.”

So with that, I’ll take questions.

Larry, Rich apparently was the right guy 10 months ago, what happened?

“Well, I think it’s just like there have been a lot of other companies that I’ve been involved in where you hire someone, you go through the process and you think it’s the right fit and after the person gets into the job you realize that it isn’t the right fit and that the chemistry is just not right. And in those kind of situations what I’ve found and what I think we’ve agreed on is it’s better to move sooner than later. Rather than drag it out and go through a time period of trying to hope something will work out when in reality once you realize that it’s not going to work it’s best to move on. We did our end of year assessment, evaluation and as a part of that process we determined that it wasn’t going to work and it was the right time.”

Why? What was it about the fit that wasn’t right?

“I think one of the things that’s probably one of the most important things about the GM role is that there has to be a connection and a chemistry with the owner. And not just with the owner but mainly with the owner and with the rest of the management and the reality is in this particular situation there just wasn’t that chemistry.”

Do you think that this is still a desirable job around the league? You just fired two General Managers in a span of 10 months.

“I think for the right person I think this is a great job. We have an owner who is willing to spend money to bring players here, we have an owner who is committed to winning, We have an owner who loves the game of basketball and I absolutely believe that for the right person this is a great opportunity, this is a great job. It;s our responibility now to go out and find that right person and to take the time and go through the process and put out the effort to make sure that we bring in the right person. But I absolutely think this is a great job still for the right person.”

Can you overview what you’re looking for in a GM?

“That’s a big part of what we’re going to be assessing over the next time period. We’re still, right now looking at what it is that we need to make this the right person. What it is that we need to find in that right person. And so we’re going through that assessment process, so right now I can’t say ‘Well.. it’s this, it’s this, it’s this.’ What we are going to do is step back, look at the entire situation over the last year and make sure that we try to do something that’s not going to result in a similar situation going forward.”

Did something happen in the last few days that culminated in this realization that the man you hired 10 months ago is not the man that you needed for the job.

“There was nothing specific that happened over the last few days. I know there’s been some comments in the media about a situation with Brandon Roy and the whole situation with suspending Brandon. That really didn’t weigh on this decision. And to address that situation, actually we all got together, talked about how we should address the situation with Brandon after his comments to the media and we decided that the right thing was for Rich to sit down, have a discussion with Brandon, let him know that if this happened again that we would suspend him. So, that’s the reality of what happened with the Brandon situation, so that didn’t weigh on this decision at all.”

 Larry, was this a chemistry issue with Paul, you, Nate, everyone? Was this really widely a problem?

“I think the main chemistry issue was with Paul. The reality is the relationship and the connection and the chemistry between the owner and the general manager is way more important than the chemistry between my role [President] and the owner. That is a role where those two have to be connected, there has to be chemistry there and at the end of the day there just wasn’t.”

Do you worry about your fan base? What their reaction’s going to be to two general managers in two years? On the outside it looks like there is confusion in the front office.

I would hope that the fans would look at the results that we’ve had over the last couple years. I mean, we’ve made some I think good decisions in terms of players that we’ve brought in here. If you look at Wesley Matthews and us going out into free agency and bringing in Wesley Matthews. The trade for Gerald Wallace. We’re going to continue to try to make this team better. And the reality is this decision was really based on Paul Allen wanting to make the team better. And him, and all of us, feeling like we had to have the right people and the right team in place. And that’s really what’s driving this, the fact that we want to get better, we want to deliver a winner to this community, to this city and we feel like there’s got to be the right chemistry, the right team in place to make that happen.”

Doesn’t it make it hard for a GM to do their job when they’ve got to work around Paul’s needs rather than using their own strengths and beliefs?

“I don’t think that there’s any hindrance for a general manager in doing that. The way our process works here in any decisions that get made is that there’s a collaboration that occurs. The general manager weighs in, the owner weighs in, I weigh in, there’s a collaboration on decisions to make a trade or to make a draft pick or to anything related to the team. So the general manager, and I don’t think that’s any different than any team where before you can make a final decision the owner has to sign off on it. So it’s no different, but the reality is I think we’re even more collaborative than most teams."

Do you worry about what message this sends outside of Portland, the rest of the NBA, potential free agents and guys who might sign here?

“I think this is a great situation for someone who would move into this general managers role. I think if you talk to players who have been here, for instance Juwan Howard, I still talk to Juwan all the time and Juwan’s comment to me is the best year that he had in his career he spent here in Portland. James Jones, I talk to James, James is on the labor relations committee for the players association and I’m on the labor relations committee, I see James all the time. And James continually tells me the best year of his career was the year he spent here in Portland. So I don’t think this is going to affect our ability to sign free agents or to make trades. I think Portland still has the reputation of being a great organization, a great city with great fans, where players love to come and play and I don’t think that’s going to change at all. And again I think for the right person this is a great situation.”

You talk about chemistry and connection, is this a problem with communication or is it more like philosophical differences, Paul wanted to go one way, Rich another?

“I think it’s more communication than philosophy. And again, to me the communication, the connection, the chemistry between owner and GM is critical.”

How do you change the process now moving forward, you’re in charge of hiring the next guy but how do you make sure he’s on board with what you’re doing? It seemed like things were great this last time around.

“Again, that’s why we’re going to step back, take our time, look totally at the situation before we make a decision on moving forward and bringing someone else in. And again, I’ve got 100 percent confidence, as does Paul, in the team that we have here that’s being led by Chad Buchanan, in terms of keeping things going in the right direction until we find that right person to bring in here. And we’re going to continure to look and continue to assess and determine what qualities and characterisitics and criteria we’re looking for. We’re going to go through that well before we jump out and start looking for someone.”

Who’s the we that’s going to be involved in that?

“I’ll be leading that process. But it’ll be myself, and Paul mainly. That’s who.”

Will Chad be a candidate or anyone else in the scouting corp?

“Well once we determine what the criteria is and what the qualifications we’re looking for, if any of those guys meet that criteria or those qualifications then they would be considered, for sure.”

What about Bill and Steve the Assistant GMs that Rich had hired?

“They are going to stay on. We want those guys to continue to be a part of our team and they will continure to work with Chad and Mike in driving our basketball operations.”

Some important decisions coming up, Greg Oden, Andre Miller’s contract, will Chad be leading that? Or will you be heavily involved in what to do next with that?

“Chad will be leading it, but again I will be there to assist those guys and give them any kind of help that I can in terms of the decisions that get made, but also Paul will be a part of those decisions as well. So again that collaborative effort will be there and we’ll make the decisions that we think are right around both Greg and Andre.”

Are we going to hear from Paul? That might put a lot of people’s feelings more at ease.

“He’s out of the country right now. There is a possibility that he may somehow communicate, but right now he’s out of the country and not here to be able to attend this meeting or to communicate right now.”

When you talk about establishing criteria do you mean like now going back and trying to find someone with general manager experience and those kinds of things?

“I think this was a learning experience for us. This last year has been a real learning experience for us in terms of who it is and what type of person and what the criteria and qualifications are for this role. So we’re going to take all of those learnings and based on that we’re going to develop a criteria for who we’re going to bring into this role next. And again, we’re going to take our time. We’re not going to rush. We’re not going to set a timeline out right now. We’re going to take our time and do everything we can to bring the right person.”

Can you characterize how Rich took this?

“I was the person who communicated this with Rich today. And Rich was shocked as you would expect. But to his credit and to the kind of individual that he is the first thing that he said in his deliberate style of communicating was ‘Well, the first thing I want to say is I want to thank both you and Paul Allen for giving me this opportunity.’ So that just speaks to the quality of person that Rich is.”

How impactful is it on the franchise to be, you’ve still cot Rich on contract for a couple more years I believe and I think that Kevin Pritchard is still being paid, is that a big knock?

“Well, it definitely affects the bottom line, but it’s not something that’s going to in any way stop us from moving forward in terms of looking for the right person.”

You say you’re going to take your time, do you know when you’re going to start that search? Will you start it immediately? Will you wait until after the draft?

“We’re not going to start it immediately. Immediately what we’re going to do is step back and really assess the situation and really look at it. Then once we go through that process then we’ll start the search.”


(I know it’s a touchy subject, so let’s try to keep the conversations civil. It’s real people we’re talking about here.)


  1. Thanks for transcribing all of this, Sarah. Always appreciated.

    I remain confused as to what what direction Allen and Miller are looking to head the team. You hire a smart, analytical guy like Cho (who is not socially outgoing) to make smart moves with the players (and he did) but remove him because he's not the "gregarious" Kevin Pritchard who made some questionable but bold moves.

    Little that Larry Miller says here outlines the direction that Cho's statement eludes to as being "the right direction".

    Portland now has three GMs on the payroll and none of them are permanent in their jobs (two are not even affiliated, in fact.)

    How about this: Hire Kass or Sarah. Both are savvy and maybe the right direction involves a woman at the Blazers helm.

    by Patch on 5/23/2011 6:26 PM
  2. @Patch, I think the 'right direction' is always heading toward improvement and becoming a champion. It's a lofty goal, and to get there teams need to be clicking on all cylinders, this includes the front office. If there are issues between personnel that leads to tension that ultimately leads to distraction and the team not working as well as it could. Cohesion is key on the court and off.

    by sarahhecht on 5/23/2011 6:43 PM
  3. Miss Sarah: I thank you for the transcript. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors so I will take Mr. Millers word for what the problem is. I don't know Mr. Cho and I haven't the foggiest what it takes to be a general Manager.

    I am sure the subject will be raked over the coals for quite some time, but regardless of all the speculation Mr. Miller is right. If the shoe doesn't fit don't wear it.

    Keep us informed; as you always do.

    Oh, I had an appointment with my knee specialist and he Kind of shot down my PRP theory. Darn.

    by Hg on 5/23/2011 10:46 PM
  4. Cho where did you go? we lost in the first round that's why your gone, not really your fault. we should have waited till after at least 1 draft before making this decision.

    by mbmurr1 on 5/24/2011 8:05 AM
  5. @mbmurr, the decision to release Cho wasn't based on his performance or the team not getting out of the first round. It was a chemistry issue.

    by sarahhecht on 5/24/2011 10:23 AM
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