The Trail Blazers have fired president of basketball operations and general manager Neil Olshey following the conclusion of an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct.
Portland announced last month that it had hired the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to conduct a “full, fair and independent review” of concerns surrounding Olshey’s behavior. Multiple employees alleged that the 56-year-old created a “hostile work environment,” according to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
How did the organization address Olshey’s firing? And who could be his long-term replacement?
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Why did the Trail Blazers fire Neil Olshey?
On Friday afternoon, Portland released the following statement:
The Portland Trail Blazers are committed to building an organization that positively impacts our colleagues, communities and the world in which we live and play. Following the conclusion of the independent review of concerns and complaints around our workplace environment at the practice facility, the Portland Trail Blazers organization has decided to terminate general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, effective immediately due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers’ code of conduct. Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it. We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment. Joe Cronin has been promoted to interim general manager while the organization’s leadership conducts a search for a permanent replacement.
Trail Blazers staff members were allegedly “subjected to intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics” under Olshey, according to Haynes. Multiple employees reportedly took issue with Olshey’s treatment of staffers.
Several staff members also “raised concerns with the organization’s alleged ‘mishandling'” of the death of video coordinator Zach Cooper, per Haynes. The 32-year-old unexpectedly died in April 2020. The cause of death was not revealed, but The Athletic’s Jason Quick noted that it was not related to COVID-19.
“This is a heartbreaking loss for the entire Trail Blazers family,” Olshey said in a statement last year. “Zach was a positive spirit, a tireless worker and an outstanding teacher. My prayers go out to his family and all who loved him.”
Olshey had served as the team’s general manager since 2012 and president of basketball operations since 2015. Before joining the Trail Blazers, Olshey was the vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers.
Who will replace Neil Olshey as the Trail Blazers’ GM?
Joe Cronin will serve as the interim GM, but early reports have revealed a few long-term replacement candidates:
Will the Trail Blazers change their stance on a Damian Lillard trade?
Olshey made a few minor changes to the roster during the offseason, but he never considered moving Lillard. He consistently pushed back on the idea of trading the franchise’s best player, even after Lillard expressed frustration with the state of his team.
It’s possible that the next GM will arrive with a much different plan, but it would be surprising if Portland chooses to immediately pull the trigger on a Lillard trade. Despite some early struggles, the Trail Blazers are still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and Lillard hasn’t looked like his usual self while playing with an abdominal injury.
The most likely scenario: The Trail Blazers don’t make any major decisions until the permanent GM is in place.