Nash won't return as Trail Blazers' general manager
PORTLAND, Ore. -- With the NBA draft looming and uncertainty surrounding the franchise's ownership, the Portland Trail Blazers decided not to extend general manager John Nash's contract.
John Nash made his share of mistakes. With four first-round picks the past two years, his haul of Sebastian Telfair, Viktor Khryapa, Sergei Monia and Martell Webster left a lot to be desired -- especially since Chris Paul could have been a Blazer. But Nash had his share of positive moves as well, including free-agent bargains Joel Przybilla, Steve Blake and Juan Dixon.
Unfortunately, those low-wattage additions were the only kinds of moves he could make because his hands were tied behind his back. With owner Paul Allen and team president Steve Patterson calling most of the shots, Nash was left to tinker around the edges. With such a muddled management structure, it's no surprise that the Blazers sunk to the bottom of the NBA standings this season.
The bigger question now is who might want the job as Nash's successor. With Allen rumored to be selling, it's likely to be a short-term proposition. And based on recent history, it's likely to be a position with little real power. As a result, look for a low-profile candidate -- perhaps Blazers personnel director Kevin Pritchard -- to take over.
President Steve Patterson will take on Nash's duties while the Blazers search for a GM. Kevin Pritchard, director of player personnel, will handle the June 28 draft.
The Blazers had the NBA's worst record last season, 21-61. They have the fourth pick in the draft.
The team extended Pritchard's contract for next season, Patterson said Wednesday in a brief news conference at the Blazers' Tualatin practice facility. Pritchard is a candidate for general manager.
"Although we shared some successes as an organization, I wish we could have made more rapid progress on the court," Nash said in a statement released by the team. "I am very proud of the young men that have joined the team in recent years and, under the guidance of the outstanding coaching staff that is in place, progress will be made in subsequent seasons."
The team announced the Nash decision late Tuesday. His contract was to expire June 30.
Patterson said that despite the impending draft and owner Paul Allen's announcement that he could sell the team, there was no sense in "delaying artificially" a decision on Nash.
"As John said in his statement, we wished we had made more progress on the floor and done it in quicker fashion," Patterson said.
But Patterson refused to label Nash as the scapegoat for the team's performance. The Blazers lost 19 of their last 20 games.
"I think we all accept responsibility for a ballclub that won only 21 games last year," he said.
Patterson set no timeline for naming Nash's successor and said he didn't expect it before the draft.
Nash, a former GM with New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, joined the Trail Blazers three years ago. At the time, Nash said he planned to continue Portland's winning tradition while reducing its high payroll and signing players who wouldn't run afoul of the law.
"I didn't come here to lose basketball games, trust me when I tell you," Nash said at his introductory news conference in July 2003.
But the Trail Blazers finished 41-41 in Nash's first season, snapping a streak of 21 consecutive playoff appearances. In 2004-05, the Trail Blazers had their first losing season since 1988-89. The fall to the bottom of the NBA was completed this season.
Nash initially was credited with getting rid of the players seen as troublesome for the Blazers, including Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells.
But he was criticized for using high draft picks on high school players Sebastian Telfair and Martell Webster and for signing forwards Darius Miles and Zach Randolph to expensive, long-term contracts.
Adding to the team's woes was Allen's assertion in February that the team was a financial disaster in need of public assistance. The Microsoft co-founder had given up ownership of the Rose Garden arena in 2004, meaning the team no longer generated revenue from sources such as luxury suites.
City and state officials have scoffed at helping out. Allen could sell the team or put it into bankruptcy, although at least two parties say they are interested in buying it.
Patterson said he did not think the ownership situation would deter GM candidates.
"I think ultimately it's an attractive market, it's a great town, and I think we're going to have success here," Patterson said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press