Interview: Miller discusses Pritchard, Penn, rumors

Portland Trail Blazers president Larry Miller spoke with the media Monday afternoon at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore.

Miller on his relationship with Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard:

Kevin and I have had a really good relationship, a great relationship since I have been here, and it continues to be that way.

On offering Pritchard a contract extension anytime soon:

Well, the reality is, the way this organization has worked and the way most organizations have worked is, you’ve got to get to the end of the season and you evaluate what’s gone on. We’re going to take that same approach going into this. And that’s not just for Kevin. That’s for me; that’s for any of the major decisions that need to be made.

On whether Pritchard’s success and what he has built is a precursor to an extension:

You’re right. He’s done a great job of getting this franchise to where it is. But, again, the way the process has worked every year is, we get to the end of the season and evaluate and make decisions at that point.

On whether there is something ownership is not happy with in regard to Pritchard:

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know of anything specific that ownership’s not happy with. But, again, at the end of the season that will be evaluated. And it’s not just Kevin; it’s all major decisions at the end of the season will be evaluated and made at that point.

On evaluating Pritchard’s performance at this point:

(Laughs) You’re going to try to get me to that, right? I think, today, if you look at this team, you see this is a team that’s over — for the adversities that we’ve had this season, to be where we are right now, this team has proved to be resilient, to be solid, and it’s been well coached, and it’s just a great group of players. Kevin was instrumental in putting that together. So, absolutely. I’ll have to look at that, and that’ll be what I take into consideration.

On what would possibly change that, such as going four-and-out in the playoffs:

This team, even where we are today, has made some major accomplishments. Just based on the adversity that we’ve had to go through. You look at all the injuries we’ve had, and just everything this team has gone through on the court, just to be where we are today is a major accomplishment to me. So, again, I think if — our goal going forward now is to get into the playoffs and to have a successful run in the playoffs. And that’s what we’re all focused on right now. That’s what Kevin, Nate, myself — we’re all focused on trying to make sure we’re doing everything we can to try and make that happen.

On why there are outside issues dominating the news:

Well, the reality is, we didn’t create this. I mean, we had an issue where there was a group decision that was made that it was time for to part ways with Tom Penn, and then all of this came out of that. But that was the decision that was made; not anything beyond that. There was no decisions or no discussions for anything beyond that. It kind of became that through some comments of other people that were made out there. But from our perspective, it was about, ‘Hey. There are some philosophical differences here with Tom. We feel as an organization it’s time to part ways.’ All of the other stuff, I am as surprised as you guys are about all the other stuff that came out of it.

On why Penn’s firing could not have waited until after the season:

Well, again, there is never a good time for a decision like this. But I think organizationally, we just felt it was the right time to. And, again, never a good time. But we felt this was the time to do it. But that was what this decision was about. It wasn’t about anything else related to Kevin or anything else. It was philosophical differences, and it was best that we part ways. And our feeling was, let’s do that and move on. But it became something other than that.

On whether he’s surprised at comments from Pritchard’s agent:

I was absolutely surprised to hear the comments from him. But he’s an agent and agents do what agents do, so I understand that. But to me, this whole thing evolving to where it has was a surprise to me.

On whether owner Paul Allen has given Pritchard a vote of confidence:

I haven’t spoken with him. I’ve exchanged some information with him. But, again, the way he’s approaching it, and the way we’re approaching it is, evaluate it at the end of the season.

On whether he will recommend to Allen to bring Pritchard back:

Again, we’re going to look at where we are at the end of the season, and we’ll all make that decision together. And it’ll be his decision ultimately.

On whether the organization, in retrospect, should have waited to fire Penn:

I think it was possible to wait until the end of the season, but the decision was made to not wait until the end of the season. The thing that bothers me is all the speculation about it, and all the things that I know are totally untrue. For instance, there was some personal issue between Tom and I. Absolutely, positively not true. There is no truth to that at all.

On during the meeting to fire Penn, whether the possible fallout was considered:

I didn’t think we anticipated it would be this, that’s for sure. We thought, ‘OK. We’ll do this and we’ll be able to move on and get focused on basketball and get focused on winning and focused on the playoffs.’ And, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.

On whether Miller has spoken to Pritchard about comments his agent made:

I have.

On whether it’s possible that other teams are spreading information to hurt the Blazers:

I think that could be a possibility. I think there could be other teams out there. I hear Kevin say this is a competitive league — there could be other teams that are trying to feed information or make things seem bigger than they are, so that they do create a distraction for us and keep us from winning the game in Phoenix last night.

On why he has not received clarification from Allen about Pritchard’s situation:

Well, again, at the end of the season —

But it is still a distraction now:

That’s true. But the way this has always worked with Paul is, at the end of the season — the way it works with most teams is, you evaluate at the end of the season.

But Penn gets fired right away:

Well, again, that was different. That was something we didn’t know was going to cause this kind of distraction, to be honest with you.

On him possibly being the GM in the future:

I hope not. That’s not the role that I was brought in to do. I think that I can make a contribution and help with some input on basketball decisions, but that’s not my job. I don’t — Kevin is the GM. He is our GM today, and he makes those types of decisions. I weigh in when I think it’s necessary, but, no.

On whether Allen ordered him to fire Penn:

Again, I’m going to go back to the comment that was made earlier. It was a philosophical decision; it was a group decision. That’s all I can say about it.

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