Interview: Blazers president Miller addresses speculation, rumor, fact

Transcript of an interview conducted Tuesday morning with Portland Trail Blazers president Larry Miller.

Miller on speculation that has shadowed the Blazers and the future of general manager Kevin Pritchard since March, when Tom Penn, former Blazers vice president of basketball operations, was fired:

I think, to me, the fact that the majority of what is being said and being talked about is all speculation. Just like the situation with Tom leaving is no different than any company — if someone leaves, the company doesn’t talk about the details related to why that person left. So, the challenge for us is public. When I worked at Nike, and I’ve worked at other places, things like this happen where it doesn’t work out with someone for whatever reason, and you part ways. The challenge here is that it’s a public process and that it makes it difficult for us.

But the reality is, this organization is still solid. People here are still focused on trying to make this the best organization in sports, and are still focused on trying to bring a championship to Portland. (Owner) Paul (Allen) is committed to that. Everybody here is committed to that. I think Paul has proven that, not just by putting his financial resources into it, but by continually trying to improve the organization. I think people should just see things for what they are. Which is, hey, something didn’t work out, and a company and an individual parted ways. That’s all it is, and we should just kind of move forward. And, again, focus on the fact that this organization is going to continue to do everything we can to be better, and to try to win a championship here; to stay connected to this community; and to be a positive a part of the Portland community. None of that has changed. The only thing is … it didn’t work out. We parted ways. And that’s all there is to it. All the speculation and other things that people are reading into it is just that.

On whether Pritchard has received his annual performance evaluation by the organization, and, if so, how it went:

The evaluation process is still in play. We’re still kind of going through that. And the reality is, the organization wants to take its time and do the best possible job of making whatever decision is made going forward. But there’s been no decisions made up to this point related to Kevin and the future. But, again, this is a process that most companies go through. Again, when I was at Nike, every year we had annual evaluations and you went through that process. But, again, like I said, the challenge here is that it’s a public process. It’s different when it’s a sports team, and we understand that. But, again, the process is still in play and it’s not finalized yet. And we’re continuing on with it.

On whether he thinks Pritchard will still be the Blazers’ GM when the 2010-11 season begins:

Well, again, I don’t know the answer to that yet. Because, like I said, we’re still in the throes of that process. But I can say, to me, Kevin has done a really good job for this organization. I think he’s been exceptional when it comes to the draft and evaluating talent. But, again, the situation is, we’re still in that evaluation process and we’re still going through it, and we’re not at the end of it yet, and decisions haven’t been made.

On whether he is aware of the Blazers having hired a search firm to find a new GM:

Again, I can’t answer that, because we are still in this process. But what I will say is I would hope people wouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on speculation. And, again, we’re in the midst of this process. We’re looking at what is best for this organization, and that’s what Paul’s commitment has always been: To bring a championship back to Portland, and to make sure he’s got the best people in place to be able to do that. And that’s the process that we’re in right now.

On how the search for a new vice president of basketball operations is going, and who eventually will make the final decision:

Well, most of the decisions like that that are made are a combination of people weighing in. I’ll weigh in. Paul weighs in. But I think, ultimately, the GM is the person who will be the key decision maker. But we’ll all weigh in on it.

We have begun it, but we’re in no rush. We want to make sure that we make the best decision. Right now, our focus — Kevin’s focus, all of our focus — is on the draft. And on making the best decision we can make in the draft. And Kevin and Chad (Buchanan) and Mike (Born) and those guys are focused on that right now. Kevin’s in New York right now, looking at players work out. He’s going from there to (Los Angeles) to do the same thing. Mike and Chad are in Europe looking at players. So, we are right now focused on the draft. And I think that’s where most people’s focus should be. It should be looking at, OK, what are these guys going to do in the draft? How are they going to do it? Who are the best players out there? That’s what we’re focused on right now. That’s where Kevin’s focus is. That’s where Chad and Mike’s focus is. And that’s where the organization’s focus is right now.

On a report that Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti recently interviewed for the Blazers’ GM position, and whether Miller has heard anything within Portland’s organization about Presti being a candidate:

Again, I’ve heard the rumors just as you guys have. But I can’t comment on where we are and what’s going on with the process. Because if I start commenting on one …

On whether there was an attempt in recent years by the business side of the Blazers’ organization to reel in operating expenses by the basketball side:

I think we have and continue to have a better relationship between basketball and business than most organizations, most sports teams. And that continues to be the case. We’re all focused on that bottom line, and trying to drive a positive bottom line. And when I say ‘all,’ I mean the basketball folks as well as the business folks. And so, there’s no rift between and business. And basketball is also focused on the bottom line. They’re just as focused on the bottom line as the business is. So, we talk about that; we look at budgets; we discuss trades or signings based on what the impact on the bottom line. We’re all focused on that here, and I think that’s one of things that has helped us improve as much as we have, is that it’s not just one part of the organization looking at the financial impact or managing budgets — it’s been the entire organization.

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