PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers abruptly dismissed general manager Rich Cho on Monday, after less than a year on the job.
"I think over the course of time that Rich has been here, there was the realization that the chemistry just wasn't there, and we didn't feel it was going to get any better moving forward," Blazers President Larry Miller told The Associated Press.
Miller said Cho was "shocked" when informed of the decision on Monday morning. Chad Buchanan, the team's director of college scouting, will serve as acting general manager.
Cho was hired by the Blazers last July to replace Kevin Pritchard, who was dismissed by the team less than a month earlier on the night of the NBA draft. While Pritchard was praised for ushering the team out of the so-called "Jail Blazers" era, he later clashed with team owner Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who also owns the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
Miller said several factors were also considered — including the team's performance this season — but ultimately it was the lack of chemistry that compelled the organization to cut ties with Cho now. There were three years left on his contract.
"The decision was, once we realized it wasn't going to work, to go ahead and make the move and just move on," Miller said.
Cho issued a statement Monday evening through the team.
"Obviously it's a difficult day, but I want to truly thank Paul Allen and Larry Miller for the opportunity they gave me here in Portland," he said. "I also want to thank the fans, players, coaches, business office staff and especially my basketball operations staff who have supported me along the way. I feel good about the work we've done here and I know the Trail Blazers are headed in the right direction."
Cho, a northwest native, came to the Blazers after serving nine seasons as the assistant general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He never assumed a very visible role with the franchise, and instead seemed to work quietly behind the scenes. His biggest deal as general manger was a trade at the deadline with Charlotte for forward Gerald Wallace.
Although he traded away fan favorites Joel Przybilla and Dante Cunningham, as well as Sean Marks and two conditional first-round draft picks, the Wallace trade ultimately boosted the Blazers. Wallace averaged 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. But the move also left the Blazers thin at center.
"This decision, as difficult as it was to make, reflects our willingness to admit and recognize that things haven't worked out," Allen said in a statement. "We're going to be tough on ourselves in assessing what we could have done better, and then go out and find the executive who is the best fit with the needs of our franchise. That chemistry and connection is critically important."
The Blazers finished the regular season 48-34 despite being hit by injuries. The sixth seed in the Western Conference, Portland was eliminated in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks.
It was the third straight year that the Blazers failed to emerge from the first round.
But it was also the second straight season the team was hit by key injuries. Former first-round draft pick Greg Oden required season-ending knee surgery, and three-time All-Star Brandon Roy had ongoing trouble with both knees.
The Oregonian newspaper reported this weekend that Cho had wanted to suspend Roy over comments he made during the playoffs about his lack of playing time.
The newspaper reported that Allen did not agree, and Roy was not suspended. Miller said Monday that the issue with Roy did not play into the decision to let Cho go.
Miller said there is no timetable for finding a new general manager. He said he is confident in Buchanan's ability to lead the team into the upcoming draft.
"We're going to take our time and find the right fit for the organization," Miller said.
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