As already noted everywhere, the Blazers pried Clippers GM Neil Olshey from Donald Sterling’s cold grasp to continue the line of great Blazer personnel men such as Bob Whitsitt and Steve Patterson. The merits of Olshey’s record with the Clippers can, and will be, nitpicked endlessly until after the draft. It seems fairly average to me, with hits to go along with the misses. From an organizational perspective though I’m not really sure that’s the point.
Olshey appears to be a hire designed to radiate an aura of competence. From his silver fox gravitas to his reputation for likeability across the NBA to his ability to work professionally for one of the worst owners in all of pro sports, the guy just exudes “pro.” While that is no doubt this is the impression that the Blazer organization was reaching for, and one Blazer fans have craved since the Penn/Pritchard fiasco clouded the 2010 offseason.
The key to remember though is that the reputation of the Blazers as one of the NBA’s classiest and most competent franchises wasn’t eroded simply by firing Tom Penn, Kevin Pritchard, and Rich Cho. It was created by that, and a thousand little mistakes and communications that sent the wrong message. Downplaying the importance of a GM with vision, acting vindicated after a single good trade, being weirdly public about the possibility of teams prying Batum away when either “no comment” or this sort of response would suffice and insinuating that the Blazers could receive the Nets’ 4th pick are just a few instances of Blazer management gradually eroding its own credibility. The owner involving himself in public spats with trolling sportswriters certainly didn’t help either.
Although hiring a respected figure like Olshey is a step in the right direction, the only way to repair the faith of fans and the rest of the NBA in the competence of the Blazer organization is the reverse of how it was eroded. The Blazers must actually act competently for an extended period of time. That might not mean winning right away, but it means the team should give Olshey a significant amount of autonomy to chart a long-term course for the team.
Only time will tell if the Blazers have just taken the first step on the long road back to trustworthiness as an organization. If they believe business as usual with a more dignified looking face will get them there, they are badly missing the point. But turning this ship around has to start somewhere, and Olshey’s hiring is a fine start.