As the Portland Trail Blazers began their search for their next coach, star guard Damian Lillard was given a list. He scanned it and picked two names that jumped out at him. Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups. Kidd’s name quickly met with upset from fans on social media. Kidd has a conviction for drunk driving and for domestic violence against his wife. Fans were livid he was a candidate, but it was short lived. Kidd quickly removed his name from consideration, citing the awkwardness of Lillard endorsing him.
The search continued. Things quieted down a bit. Three candidates were left after a list of 8 was pared down. Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, and Clippers assistant Chancey Billups. They were all brought in for interviews then second interviews. Jody Allen was rumored to have wanted Becky Hammon. But, days later Chauncey Billups was announced as the Blazers choice. Then came the recoil.
Billlups was accused of rape in 1997 when he played for the Celtics. He reached a settlement with the victim. He was never charged or convicted. For 24 years the matter lay dormant like a volcano biding its time and now it has erupted back into the public conversation after the Blazers decided to hire him as head coach. Lillard was attacked on social media by fans for choosing Billups name off the list. For his preference of the former NBA guard as coach. He didn’t know about the allegations. He was a kid when all that happened. He had no idea till today. But, ire was aimed at him because of rumors that he was going to ask for a trade if the Blazers didn’t get Billups. Ridiculous rumors.
On the other hand Neil Olshey knew. He has known Billups for years. He knew. So if you want to someone, blame him instead of Lillard. Jody Allen knew. She found out as they vetted Billups for the Blazers coaching position. The carried out an investigation. They sat down and talked about it with him on Wednesday. Apparently, they were satisfied with his explanation and with the results of their inquiry. Maybe because it was so long ago. Maybe because there were no charges. Maybe because they believed him. A growing number of fans aren’t buying it. They are upset Neil Olshey had a woman candidate in Becky Hammon as a finalist and chose the guy with the checkered past. They feel insulted, betrayed. Maybe Billups was just the better candidate
Other fans don’t think its a big deal at all. They point to the fact he wasn’t charged or convicted. They are happy with him being picked and think he is the best pick for the job. The best candidate to help the Blazers forward. They tout his successful career, that he is a 5 time MVP, a Finals MVP, and has championship experience. That he fits well with Star Damian Lillard, will help improve the Blazers defense and hold players accountable.
The Blazers have stepped in a hornets nest. There is real turmoil here, justified or not. It is hurting the franchise. The Blazers are set to announce their new coach on Tuesday. The future is at stake. It could cost them Damian Lillard. It could cost them fans. It could cost them the franchises clean image. They need to come out Tuesday at the press conference with a solid explanation. They need to let fans know they have taken this seriously. They need to soothe the unease. They need to convince the fanbase that Billups is the right coach for this team and that his past isn’t what it seems.