The new leadership of the Portland Trail Blazers held a press conference Thursday morning. Interim general manager Joe Cronin, president Dewayne Hankins, and head coach Chauncey Billups sat next to each other in directors chairs, smiling, and at ease. No stiff suits, just wrinkled shirts. It was of such casual caliber, they called it a conversation rather than a press conference.
It was far removed from the combative and reft conferences held by former GM Neil Olshey in which he would stake claims of openness and transparency before often finding himself at odds against reporters asking questions not to his liking. Olshey would then put up walls of resistance, repelling questions with words such as proprietary and making excuses to evade accountability.
This conference…err…conversation was far different. It was an open exchange. No tables between the Blazers leadership and the press, no blazers representatives moderating questions. Just three guys having a chat. It felt inviting, comfortable, and relaxed.
President of business operations Dewayne Hankins took the microphone first and thanked Owner Jody Allen, Vulcan head Bert Kolde, and former president Chris McGowan who he called his mentor for the opportunity of being the Blazers latest president.
Hankins spoke on the financial issues surrounding the pandemic. He denoted innovation and a data driven response to challenges that have disrupted the organization. He emphasized the importance for continued work towards equality, diversity, and inclusion in the organization.
He discussed the Blazers new tv deal with Root TV, reiterating that it has doubled the viewership capability for the team. To the ire of many fans no doubt who have been waiting to be able to watch games on streaming platforms such as Hulu or YouTube TV, he mentioned that the Blazers do not control Roots Sports contracts with streaming services.
Interim GM Joe Cronin who was formerly the director of player personnel, was a polar opposite of Olshey in his introduction. Far from the calculated and ego driven Olshey, Cronin came off affable and modest. He preached communication and culture. His aim he said is to listen, and to act.
When question about limitations to his job, Cronin said he has to clear any trade with Jody Allen and Better Kolde, but that he has been directed to go out and look for deals. He let on that he will be given a chance to show he can be the Blazers permanent GM. The Ball is in his court.
Head coach Chauncey Billups for his part found it quite strange that he was the longest tenured of the three, having been hired just a few months prior himself. He preached culture, a desire to push his brand of what a winning mindset is, in defense, in the very way players carry themselves and put forth effort.
He shared that he is excited about the Blazers future despite a 11-15 start to the season. He feels comfortable in his ambition to put together a winning team once Lillard returns and the Blazers are able to get better fitting pieces to the roster.
The three guys up there in all their poise of ease and amiability, bring a composure and accountability to Portland it hasn’t seen in some time. They herald a new era for the franchise. Fans who have protested the contentious path of the franchise can rest easy and feel something they haven’t been able to in years; hope.