In the 49 year history of the franchise, the Portland Trail Blazers have had ten general managers. Twelve if you count interim GMs Todd Leiweke and Chad Buchanan. (I won’t for this list) Within those tenures, the Blazers made the Playoffs thirty four times, including six trips to the NBA western conference finals, three trips to the NBA finals, and a NBA championship in 1977. From 1982-2003 the Blazers enjoyed a window where they made the playoffs for twenty one consecutive years. The Blazers have had some top of the line GMs, and they have had some well, not so good ones. The longest tenured Blazers GM was 11 years and the shortest 1. Here are the Blazers GMs best to worst.
10. Steve Patterson/Kevin Pritchard (2006-07) 1 year
Coaches during tenure: Nate McMillan
Playoff Appearances: None DNQ
Notable Draft Picks/Trades:
Drafted Tyrus Thomas and traded him to Chicago for LaMarcus Aldridge
Traded Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff to Boston Celtics for Rand Foye, Raef LaFrentz, and Dan Dikau, then traded Randy Foye for Brandon Roy
Cash to Phoenix Suns for Sergio Rodriguez
Steve Blake, Ha Seung – Jin, and Brian Skinner for Jaamal Magloire
*Interim Todd Leiweke
Steve Patterson lasted about another season after John Nash left, before he too was gone. I list Kevin Pritchard next to Patterson’s name because he was the assistant GM and should be given a good deal of credit for the draft trades that netted the Blazers Aldridge and Roy. Patterson was the Blazers shortest tenured general manager, and for good reason. He was terrible at his job to say the least. He traded away the teams 3rd pick in the 2005 draft, that could have gotten the Blazers Chris Paul, in a move that sent the Blazers to the bottom of the lottery for Martell Webster. He sunk the team into bankruptcy with his ineptitude. The winning ways he (and Nash) Promised never materialized. Paul Allen couldn’t make him gone soon enough. It is a wonder he wasn’t shown the door at Nash’s side.
9. Rich Cho (2010-2012) 2 years
Coaches during tenure: Nate McMillan
Playoff Apperances: 1 (1st rnd exit)
Notable Signed Players: *Wesley Matthews, Joel Przybilla, Kurt Thomas, Jamal Crawford, JJ Hickson
Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and a 2012 1st rnd pick (Damian Lillard)
Marcus Camby to the Houston Rockets for Johnny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet.
Rudy Fernandez and Rights to Petri Kaponen to Mavs, and Andre Miller to Denver for Raymond Felton
*Chad Buchanan (Interim) – Made the trade to get the draft pick that would become Damian Lillard- Scouted Damiain
Rich Cho was one of Portland’s shortest tenured general managers. Paul Allen was very excited when he hired Rich. He thought Rich was the perfect front office guy, with his statistic driven mindset. But, the magic died off quickly once Cho started making moves. Wesley Matthews was signed before Cho became GM, even though it is listed as during his years in Portland. Most of his trades made the Blazers worse, i.e. trading Miller/Fernandez for Felton, and sending Camby to Houston. Though Camby wanted out. Cho looked like he was building something, then tore it apart, like a kid with Legos. He did net the Blazers the draft pick that would turn into Damian Lillard, probably his only saving grace.
8. John Nash (2003-2006) 3 years
Coaches during tenure: Maurice Cheeks, Kevin Pritchard (interim), Nate McMillan
Playoff Appearances: NONE DNQ
Notable Draft Picks: Travis Outlaw, Sebastian Telfair, Martell Webster
Bonzi Wells to Memphis Grizzlies for Wesley Person and a 1st
Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person to Atlanta Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dikau
Jeff McGinnis to Cleveland Cavaliers for Darius Miles
Dale Davis and Dan Dikau to Golden State for Nick Van Exel
Ruben Patterson to Denver Nuggets for Voshon Leonard/Brian Skinner
Notable signings: Joel Pryzbilla, Steve Blake, Juan Dixon
John Nash replaced one of the longest tenured general managers (Bob Whisitt) and lasted only three years in the captains seat. Whisitt was so big a presence to be replaced, the Blazers brought in two men for the job. The other being Steve Patterson who they hired as team president to handle the numbers. Nash, a veteran executive, was heralded as a resident big guy, who could survive the shadow left by Whisitt, and perhaps, cast a larger one himself.
Nash and Patterson were tasked with cleaning house. After so many years, of having one of the leagues largest salaries, and no title to show for it, Paul Allen wanted someone to come in and purge the payroll, not to mention scrub away the obstinate stain of the Jail Blazers era. Nash (and Patterson) did just that, for the most part. He traded Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Jeff McGinnis, Ruben Patterson, and Dale Davis. He let Damon Stoudamire walk away. By the time the smoke cleared, the only Jail Blazers remaining, were Randolph and the incoming Miles, and the roster though better in character, was certainly not better or successful on the court. It turned out Nash was more a shadow puppet, then a durable regnant character.
7. Kevin Pritchard (2007 -10) 3 years
Coaches during tenure: Nate McMillan
Playoff Appearances: 2, 2 1st rnd exits
Notable Draft Picks: Greg Oden, Patty Mills
Zach Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dikau to New York Knicks for Steve Francis (waived) and Channing Frye
Darrell Arthur and Joey Dorsey traded to Houston Rockets for Nic Batum
Cash Considerations for Rudy Fernandez and James Jones from Phoenix Suns
Brandon Rush, Jarret Jack, and Josh McRoberts to Indiana Pacers for Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu
Steve Blake And Travis Outlaw to Los Angeles Clippers for Marcus Camby
Notable Signings: Andre Miller, Juwan Howard, Steve Blake
Kevin Pritchard was a trader bob light, he saw the past two general managers before him go with such short notice, that he felt he had to make an impression and fast. First, he got rid of the remaining Jail Blazers, Zach Randolph and had the fiasco with Darius Miles and his “career ending knee injury.” He brought in talent in Batum, Miller, Fernandez, and Channing Frye. The competive spirit was returning to Portland with the drafting of Greg Oden, though many were upset he picked Oden over Durant. For the record I honked once. It was looking like an Oden/Aldridge/Roy dynasty, but you know how that story ends. And, thus ended Kevin Pritchard
6. Neil Olshey (2012-Present) 7 years
Coaches during tenure: Terry Stotts
Playoff Appearances: 5, 3 1st rnd, 2 semi
Notable Draft Picks: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Will Barton, Jake Layman (via Orlando), Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr.
Jeff Withey in a three team deal involving New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings for Robin Lopez
Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a 1st for Aaron Afflalo
Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and a 1st rnd pick
2nd rnd pick for Moe Harkless
Cash for Shabazz Napier
2 2nd round picks for Allen Crabbe
Rondae Hollis Jefferson and Steve Blake to the Brooklyn Nets for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton
Nic Batum to Charlotte Hornets for Gerald Wallace and Noah Vonleh
Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas to New York Knicks for Jared Jefferies and Dan Gadzuric
Notable Signings: Mo Williams, Al Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Evan Turner, Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin, Enes Kanter
Listen, Neil Olshey has been Portland’s general Manager for seven years, the last GM under Paul Allen, who passed away earlier this season. Olshey now works for Paul’s sister Jody, and it appears his job isn’t in immediate trouble, even after all the blunders he has made. For all the flack he gets, he did build up the Blazers to a contending team in 2014-15 before Wesley Matthews took the infamous misstep and with him, it all came crashing down. Olshey allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to walk away without getting anything back for him. Then Blew it up letting Lopez and Matthews walk, and trading Nic Batum to Charlotte.
For the past four years he has been rebuilding/retooling the team, based on time of day you ask him. He resigned Meyers, Crabbe, and Harkless to 4 year loaded contracts back in 2016, and signed Evan Turner to a contract more bloated than a beached whale. Maybe it’s like one of those sliding puzzles, where things looks worse before they finally begin to fit together.
He seems to be finally turning things around a bit, with the trade for Rodney Hood and the signing of Enes Kanter to help Portland down the stretch, and to try and make a dent in the playoffs. And, the Blazers better or else it may be Olshey’s turn in the hot seat. The cake better be done baking soon.
5. Bob Whisitt (1994-2003) 11 years
Coaches during tenure: P.J Carlesimo, Mike Dunleavy, Maurice Cheeks
Playoff Appearances: 9, 7 1st rnd, 2 WCF
Notable Draft Picks: Jermaine O’Neal, Zach Randolph
Clyde Drexler and Tracy Murray to Houston Rockets for Otis Thorpe and a 1st
Bill Curly and James Robinson and a 1st for Isaiah Rider
Rod Strickland and Harvey Grant to the Washington Bullets for Rasheed Wallace and Mitchell Butler
Aaron Mckie to Detroit Pistons for Stacy Augmon
Kenny Anderson, Gary Trent, and Alvin Williams to Toronto Raptors for Damon Stoudamire and Walt Williams
A 1st rnd pick to Detroit Pistons for Bonzi Wells
Isaiah Rider (and Jim Jackson) for Steve Smith (Ed Gray)
Walt Williams, Stacey Augmon, Calvin Cato, Ed Gray, Carlos Rogers, and Brian Shaw to Houston Rockets for Scottie Pippen
Brian Grant to Miami Heat and Gary Grant to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Shawn Kemp
Jermaine O’Neal and Joe Kleine to Indiana Pacers for Dale Davis
Steve Smith to the San Antonio Spurs for Derek Anderson and Steve Kerr
Trader Bob is no doubt one of the best of Portland’s general managers, if you are measuring by the ability to trade for talent. He traded more than any other general manager (not considering the house cleaning that Nash/Patterson undertook), though Olshey isn’t far behind. He cared only about talent, dismissing character. He brought talent to Portland, but at great cost. He was the author of the Jail Blazers era, ushering in malcontents and waving off the idea that there was any problem, like it was no big deal. I’ll give him one thing, he took risks, but it hurt Portland, even if he did get us to the playoffs nine times. The Blazers were far too emotional to ever go all the way. They allowed refs and opponents to get in their heads, they disrespected coaches and fans. Talent could nor overcome the commotion.
Another issue was Whisitt never allowed for a team to coalesce. He was a gunslinger. He was addicted. He should have been in traders anonymous. He was moving guys every season, left and right. He had the impatience of a kid in a candy store. It is probably part of the reason he couldn’t get the Blazers to the golden land, and eventually Paul Allen got sick of footing the bill every year without results. He was tired of the image his team had come to reflect, and wanted to change directions, to purge over a decade of a failed campaign. Then, as fast as those trades he was famous for, Whisitt was gone.
4. Geoff Petrie (1990-94) 4 years
Coaches during tenure: Rick Adelman
Playoff Appearances: 4, 1 WCF, 1 F, 1 1st rnd ext
Drazen Petrovic to the New Jersey Nets for Walter Davis
Byron Irving to the Kings for Danny Ainge
Notable Signings: Rod Strickland
Petrie, the Blazers first draft pick, had been hovering around the Blazers as a commentator, and various other gigs. He worked his way up to vice president then, general Manager. While he had the helping hand of Bucky Buckwalter, Petrie being a player understood talent, and was aptly qualified. That said, he didn’t make a lot of moves during his tenure, coasting off the work Bucky and others had already done. He traded Petrovic to the Nets, his worst move by far. He did trade for Ainge and sign Rod Strickland. Though, Ainge would leave the following year in free agency after promising to resign with the Blazers. Petrie was there for the golden days of the early nineties and the beginning of the aftermath. His job seemed mostly to maintain Portland’s core and achieve more trophies. The Blazers got to the finals under him, then couldn’t get back. That said, his tenure were probably the last good years, before hell broke loose.
3. Jon Spolestra/Bucky Buckwalter (1986-1990) 4 years
Coaches during tenure: Mike Schuler, Rick Adelman
Playoff Appearances: 4, 3 1st rnd exits, 1 finals
Notable Draft Picks: Arvydas Sabonis, Drazen Petrovic, Clifford Robinson
Walter Berry to San Antonio Spurs for Kevin Duckworth
Sam Bowie and a 1st rnd pick to the New Jersey Nets for Buck Williams
While Jon Spolestra was the GM, he was a genius with numbers, Bucky Buckwalter helped with player acquisition in the background. This is why his name sits next to Jon’s, as it deserves too. These were the golden years after Ramsay had left and the Blazers slowly built a contender again, while staying on their feet. It would lead up to the finals appearance in 89-90 and the other to come in 91-92. Working off of players drafted by Glickman and Inman, and adding guys like Williams and Duckworth gave Portland the gas to make a couple more runs at the championship.The Blazers Avengers team was finally assembled, but couldn’t quite go all the way against the Spurs, and later Michael Jordan’s Bulls. But, what a thrill!
2. Stu Inman (1981-1986) 5 years
Coaches during tenure: Jack Ramsay
Playoff Apperances: 4, 2 1st rnd, 2 Semi
Notable Draft Picks: Clyde Drexler, Sam Bowie (Over Michael Jordan), Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, Darnell Valentine
Notable Trades: Calvin Natt, Fat Lever, 1st rnd pick to Denver Nuggets for Kiki Vandeweghe
Stu Inman was an integral component of the Blazers organization from the very beginning, and became general manager in 1981. He played a large part in putting together the 1977 championship team, and should almost really be number 1 on this list, almost (though I make sure to give him much deserved credit for his earlier success with the team). He committed two considerable gaffs, the greater of the two, and perhaps the greatest in the NBA’s history, passing up Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft, for oft injured Sam Bowie. The other being trading Calvin Natt and Fat Lever for Kiki Vandeweghe. Still, Stu should get his due. He has an eagles eye for talent, not considering MJ. Blazer’s fans owe him a great debt of gratitude, because not only did he help build the 77 team, but he drafted one of the best blazers, Drexler, and pieces to the nineties golden team, in Porter and Kersey. He made both runs possible. Thank you Stu.
1. Harry Glickman (1970-81) 11 years
Coaches during tenure: Rolland Todd, Jack McCloskey, Lenny Wilkens, Jack Ramsay
Playoff Appearances: 5, 1 Championship, 1 semi finals, 3 1st rnd
Notable Draft Picks: Bill Walton, Geoff Petrie, Sidney Wicks, Larry Steele, LaRue Martin, Dave Twardzik, Rick Adelman, Lionel Hollins, Bob Gross, Jim Paxson, *Maurice Lucas, Moses Malone
Larry Siegfried to San Diego Rockets for Jim Barnett
Moses Malone to Buffalo Braves ( Now the Clippers) for a 1st round pick (Mychal Thompson)
Geoff Petrie and Steve Hawes for 2md pick in 76 draft (Maurice Lucas)
Harry Glickman is the Blazer’s first and still best general manager. Stu Inman was a big help to him and he needed it. Glickman not only helped to get the Blazers in Portland (he had been trying since 1955 – and finally did so in 1970 with the help of Larry Weinberg and co), but he had to put the first team together, a whole team. He took guys like Adelman, Riley, Ellis, and Schulter in the 1970 expansion draft that also involved the new Cleveland Cavaliers and Buffalo Braves(Now the Los Angeles Clippers).
Glickman then drafted Petrie, later Wicks, and Walton, not to mention other Portland greats. He, with Inman put together the 1977 championship team. Not many teams win a championship in their first six years. Glickman also hired Bill Schonely to be the voice of the Blazers. He eventually hired Jack Ramsay, the coach whose example, the rest of Portland’s coaches have been trying to live up to.
Glickman’s biggest mistake was trading Moses Malone, after drafting him in the ABA dispersal draft. They had Lucas and thought the two canceled each other out, but man, imagine if the Blazers had kept both. My goodness. Still, Glickman was responsible for putting together Portland’s franchise as we know it. We owe him everything.