Cho becomes Blazers’ new GM

The Portland Trail Blazers are expected to name Rich Cho as the organization’s new general manager, sources have informed The Columbian.

Cho will follow Kevin Pritchard, who was fired June 24.

Cho, Danny Ferry and Randy Pfund were the primary candidates for the job.

However, Cho’s basketball knowledge and expertise in league financial issues greatly impressed the organization, a team source said, turning the final candidate into the eventual winner. The former Oklahoma City assistant GM’s personality and work background were also key factors in the hiring. As Cho went through the interview process, a strong consensus quickly built that the Washington State graduate was the best choice to take the Blazers to the next step.

Cho spent 12 years with Oklahoma City, and was responsible for salary cap and CBA issues, among other matters. And while he never garnered the attention given to Thunder GM Sam Presti, Cho is considered to be a rising star in the NBA’s executive ranks — someone whose unique talents and energy are comparable to Pritchard’s.

Cho is a graduate of the Pepperdine University School of Law with an emphasis in sports law. He earned his engineering degree from WSU, and worked as an engineer at Boeing in Seattle for five years.

Update: The Blazers have confirmed that Cho will become the team’s new GM.

Press release:

Portland, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers have named Rich Cho as the team’s new general manager, Trail Blazers President Larry Miller announced today. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed.

“Rich is the perfect fit for our organization,” said Larry Miller, Trail Blazers president. “He has the right balance of basketball knowledge, business acumen and tremendous people skills. Everyone I spoke to about Rich commented not just on his qualifications but on who he is as a person. He is well known for his ability to connect genuinely with people. Rich will be a great fit for our organization and for Portland. He is an executive on the rise and we’re thrilled to have him as a Trail Blazer.”

Cho, who becomes the ninth general manager in Trail Blazers history, joins the Trail Blazers after spending the past nine seasons as assistant general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and I will do everything I can to help this great team get even better,” said Rich Cho. “When I met with Mr. Allen, Larry Miller, and coach McMillan, it was immediately apparent to me that this organization has an incredible commitment to winning. As someone who grew up in the northwest, I’m aware of the unbelievable passion and support that Trail Blazers fans have, and I’m excited to be a part of this rich tradition.”

Cho entered the NBA as an intern with the SuperSonics in 1995 while earning a law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law. He was brought on as a part-time consultant for the SuperSonics in 1997. Later that year he was hired as the team’s director of basketball affairs, a position he held until being promoted to assistant general manager in 2000.

“Rich Cho joins us as one of the new generation of general managers in the NBA,” said Paul Allen, Trail Blazers owner. “We were all impressed with the depth and breadth of his skill-set and we know his leadership will be a critical to make our great organization even more successful. I really enjoyed meeting with him and discussing what he could bring to the Blazers to make that happen.”

While assistant general manager with the SuperSonics/Thunder, Cho, who is known for his analytical skills, was responsible for constructing trades, contract negotiations, salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement matters, player contracts and all player personnel issues. Cho also reviewed contract matters for the Seattle Storm.

A member of the Washington State Bar, Cho was also a valuable asset to the business office, having served as Vice President of Legal for the SuperSonics from 2005-07. He handled all the legal work involved with sponsorship agreements, licensing issues, employment contracts and immigration issues.

During his internship with the SuperSonics, Cho – with the assistance of two Microsoft programmers – helped design and implement one of the NBA’s most advanced and comprehensive college and professional player-evaluation systems that integrates player statistics, scouting information and contract details.

I worked with Cho in Seattle,” said Trail Blazers Head Coach, Nate McMillan. “He works 24/7. He’s intelligent, soft-spoken, a family guy. He has been the most sought after NBA executive over the past couple of years. He can get deals done and make things happen. I look forward to working as a team with Rich and Larry Miller. Next steps will be to finalize my coaching staff. I hope to make that announcement later this week”

Cho, 44, is a northwest native, having attended Decatur High School in Federal Way, Wash. before earning an engineering degree from Washington State University. His law degree from Pepperdine University includes an emphasis in sports law, contract negotiations and dispute resolution.

Prior to entering the NBA, he had previously worked as an engineer at Boeing in Seattle from 1990-95.

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