Tag: Larry Miller

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Blazers president Larry Miller steps down


Larry Miller lost a power struggle. When Neil Olshey was hired as the new general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, it was considered to somewhat be a loss for President Larry Miller who was against the hire. Today that process came full circle as Miller stepped down as President of the Blazers. From the Presser:

Larry Miller has resigned as President of the Portland Trail Blazers to take a job with a Portland-area company, the team announced on Saturday.
“I greatly enjoyed my time with the Portland Trail Blazers,” said Larry Miller. “It was an incredible experience and I’ll be forever grateful to Paul Allen for giving me the opportunity and honor to lead what I believe to be one of the best teams in all of sports.”
Under Miller’s leadership, the Trail Blazers recorded three consecutive trips to the postseason from 2009-11 for the first time since 2001-03. The Trail Blazers won 54 games and shared the Northwest Division crown in 2008-09, the team’s first division title since 1998-99.
“The timing is right,” said Miller. “We have an excellent general manager in place in Neil Olshey, so I feel the team is on solid ground and headed in the right direction. Off the court, business is great. The Rose Garden is packed every night and the passion of Trail Blazers fans has never been better.”
Also since Miller’s arrival, the Trail Blazers are riding a streak of 192 consecutive sellouts, dating back to Dec. 21, 2007. Portland has led the Western Conference in average home attendance for each of the past four seasons.
“It is sad to see Larry leaving the Blazers and I want to thank him for his leadership and contributions to the franchise,” said Owner Paul Allen . “Larry helped manage a period of significant growth and I wish him all the best as he takes on this opportunity.”
Also during his tenure, the Trail Blazers made significant strides in becoming a leader in sustainability among professional sports franchises. The Rose Garden became the first existing arena in the world to attain LEED Gold Certification.
With Miller’s departure, basketball operations will report through General Manager Neil Olshey and business operations will report through Chief Operating Officer Sarah Mensah. A search for a replacement for Miller will begin immediately.

Prior to joining the Trail Blazers, Miller served as President of the Jordan Brand from 1999-2006. He’s also held executive management positions with Jantzen, Kraft, Philadelphia Newspapers, Campbell’s Soup, Converse and Nike.

Miller’s departure represents yet another signature end to the Blazers era that began in 2007 and was supposed to usher in another era of contention for Portland. With Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden, many felt the Blazers would reach the toppermost of the toppermost and be a title contender for years. But injuries derailed that plan, and the Blazers have been wildly unstable for the past four years, with two general managers fired in less than two years.
It appears there’s a new power structure in place with Olshey at the top under Miller… and advisor Bert Kolde.

Steve Kerr takes himself out of Trail Blazers GM search

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr — the former Suns general manager and current TNT analyst who reportedly was at the top of Portland’s list of potential GMs — has taken his name out of the running, reports the Oregonian after speaking to Kerr’s agent (via Hoopshype).

After an informal phone interview last week, Steve Kerr has told the Trail Blazers that he is not interested in filling their opening at general manager.
After an informal phone interview last week, Steve Kerr has told the Trail Blazers that he is not interested in filling their opening at general manager…

“He likes Larry (Miller, Blazers president), and certainly isn’t closing any doors, but right now he loves his life at TNT,’’ said Mark Bartelstein, Kerr’s agent. “He will come back to the NBA in the future, whether it’s as a coach or in the front office, but that’s a few years down the road.’’

Portland’s hot-and-cold, on-and-off search for a GM will move on. One potential candidate is former Hornets GM Jeff Bower, reports Chris Haynes at CSNNW.com. Bower is well respected around the NBA and is the guy who drafted both Chris Paul and David West to the Hornets.

But the real question is: How would he get along with owner Paul Allen. Two quality GMs — Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho — were reportedly let go more for how they got along with the owner than on-the-court production.

Blazers president talks Roy, Oden, GM… but no real answers

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Blazers president Larry Miller took on all questions and talked a lot at a Wednesday press conference. But like a good politican, he didn’t really say much.

The Blazers are a team at a crossroads. What are they going to do with Brandon Roy? Greg Oden? When are they going to get a permanent general manager? How do they go from a team with good pieces to a contender?

Not sure that Miller has the answers. Whatever answers he had he wasn’t spilling at the press conference. Blazers Edge has a full transcript of the presser for your perusal.

This is my favorite quote from the whole thing:

If we have a healthy Greg and a healthy Brandon we’ve got a great roster. If there’s some issues there then we’ve got to figure out what we are going to do. I think our roster is good.

If Eddy Curry had a great work ethic and could stay healthy Isiah Thomas would have been right. If the Sixers had Allen Iverson circa 2000 they’d be a lot better off. Ifs are moot. Miller sounds like the head of a team in denial — Oden is not right and may never be (he is reportedly on a January timetable), and Roy is never going to be the same player again. Yes the rest of the roster is pretty nice (LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum in particular), but without a superstar they are average. That is reality.

Regarding Brandon Roy and the amnesty clause…

The reality is that we have not – and regardless of what’s been said by John Canzano and others out there – no decision has been made on amnesty as of yet. We are still looking at every possible option that is available to us but we have not made a decision as far as Brandon or anyone at this point.

The first call that [Acting GM] Chad [Buchanan] made this morning, he counted the clock down at 5:59, 6:00 this morning, his first call was to Brandon’s agent to talk about how Brandon is doing, when we can sit down and have a conversation with Brandon. With everything that Brandon has done for this organization, there’s no way we would make a decision like that without having conversations with them, without evaluating where he is and seeing what’s going on with him.

Miller later made it sound like Roy would be part of the Blazers training camp, but that amnesty is not out of the question.

As for hiring a GM to really chart a direction for the franchise, there is no timetable.

We put (the search) on pause. It continues to be on pause. I and the rest of us are confident that with Chad (Buchanan, acting GM), with [coach] Nate [McMillan], with myself, with the people that we have in place here, we can make the decisions that this team needs made to be able to move this team forward and to be ready to go into next season. We know what we need in order to get better. We’ve been looking at all the free agents that are out there that can help us.

Might Jazz go on market if labor deal isn’t good enough? No.

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UPDATE 1:49 pm: Greg Miller, the guy who owns the Jazz, shot down the sale idea with this tweet on Monday afternoon.

Speculation of the Jazz being sold is unfortunate & irresponsible. Thanks to unprecedented fan & sponsor support the Jazz is solid as ever.

11:28 am: I will tell you up front I am dubious about this. Actually, dubious is not a strong enough word, I think this is spin and… well, I can’t use the other word in a family blog such as this.

A source suggested to the Deseret News that the Utah Jazz lost $17 million last season and that if the new labor deal isn’t a good enough one for small markets the long-time owners, the Miller family, may try and sell the team.

In fact, one source with intimate knowledge of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies’ inner workings speculated that small-market-related economic hardships could force Jazz ownership to place a “For Sale” sign on the franchise. The source told the Deseret News that the Jazz were expected to report losses in the $17 million range for the 2010-11 season.

“If I was a betting man,” the source said, “my guess is that the Millers will sell the team within the next five years, unless this CBA changes the formula so that the team can make some money.”

Now, even the reporter (Jody Genessy) sounded like he questioned this and Real Salt Lake owner and former Knicks executive Dave Checketts thought that sounded far-fetched. That said, go read the whole story, it’s a great look into small market team finances.

We want to add, that while the Jazz may have lost money last year, they were tax payers — they were more than $5 million over the luxury tax threshold. They also will be over the salary cap whenever the lockout ends, the Jazz have been spenders.

What’s more, the last offer was already a good deal for small market owners. The league said it lost $300 million last season and the players gave back that much salary in the most recent talks, agreeing to the 50/50 split. Plus, the owners were on the verge of having a new revenue sharing program that would have tripled money that comes to smaller market clubs. That would more than cover the financial losses of the Jazz.

The Miller family is not going to sell the Jazz. Not going to happen. As former Jazz beat writer Ross Siller suggested on twitter, one reason is it would hurt the image of their other businesses too much.

This isn’t all about the money anymore. What held up the last deal with these same small market owners chasing the Holy Grail of competitive balance. Something that is a myth, something no system they put in place can achieve. The Jazz have been successful in a small market for years because they made smart decisions with players and drafted well. The only reason they would not be successful in the future is if they stop doing those things. It’s not the system.

Jazz show how small markets can stay afloat, but winning costs


The Salt Lake Tribune did a fantastic story over the weekend looking at the finances of the Utah Jazz and how that ties to the fortunes of late owner Larry Miller. It’s a great bit of reporting.

Some interesting tidbits out of that is how the Jazz have a passionate fan base — they averaged 19,511 people per game (seventh in the NBA) and had the second best television ratings and third best local sponsorship deals. This is a small market team that has kept fans happy and is rewarded with a loyal following and good revenue streams.

And yet they lost money. Why? Because you have to spend with the big boys to compete for rings and the Jazz were trying to do that, which left them with big contracts on the books. The blog SLC Dunk breaks it down well.

That of course is because the team was a luxury-tax payer for the first time ever starting with the 2010 season. They committed to that once Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Mehmet Okur all picked up their player options in a down off-season. They also had Andrei Kirilenko’s contract still on the books. In addition, Deron Williams’ max contract extension kicked in. So while they may not have been planning on going into the luxury tax that season, they knew it was a possibility. As a result, the team lost their first-round pick in Eric Maynor as he was traded to Oklahoma City in order for the Thunder to take Matt Harpring’s contract. That move saved them $12 million ($6 million for Hapring plus matching tax).

Last season also saw the Jazz go into luxury tax territory as they used a traded player exception received from Carlos Boozer going to Chicago in order to sign Al Jefferson. Again, AK’s deal was still on the books, Okur had a $10 million deal, and Williams was making the max. After a promising start to the season, the Jazz faltered and never materialized into a contender. The choice to go into the luxury tax last season was a little more of a conscious decision in an effort to remain a contender and to help appease Williams.

The owners will use this as an example of why the system needs to change, they will mask it as “competitive balance” but make no mistake it is all about the money. They spent it to keep Deron Williams, then unsure that was going to happen they shipped him out early to get a new building block in Derrick Favors.

The spending pattern in the NBA is not big markets spend and small ones don’t, it’s contenders spend and rebuilding teams don’t. The Lakers and the Mavericks are spending right now not just because they can but also because they are title contenders. The Thunder have not spent big yet but that is about to change as they have to really pay Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, not to mention good role players to go around them. They want to contend, they have to spend.

That doesn’t make the system flawed. Whatever system the owners put in that pattern will continue — teams will spend when they think they can win, will strip down costs during rebuilding.

The Jazz will spend less in the coming years as they rebuild with youth (after seeing him this summer, watch for Jeremy Evans), but when they get good again they will spend a lot for a chance to win. Frankly, it’s the way it should be.