Christmas might have come early for Portland Trail Blazer fans, as team president Neil Olshey is being investigated for allegedly creating a toxic workplace, Yahoo Sports reported Saturday. Olshey has been with the organization as general manager since 2012, and despite the Trail Blazers making the playoffs every season but one under his tenure, he’s come under criticism for failing to surround Damian Lillard with the right pieces to contend for a title.
Now, the knives are out, sharpened, and — depending on the findings of an independent firm — could be driven into Olshey. On the surface, the accusations — claims of intimidation and profanity-laced tirades in addition to a toxic workplace environment — while uncouth and unprofessional, don’t appear to be as salacious as any recently levied at Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver.
The report also mentions Olshey’s handling of the death of video assistant Zach Cooper in 2020. The cause of death was never released, and it seems like Cooper was liked within the organization, but the unknown nature of the incident and its mention in the report are only going to create speculation.
What that leads to may not matter because Olshey fired Terry Stotts, replaced him with Chauncey Billups (a controversial hire), and did little in the offseason to improve the roster — early season returns reflect that. The Blazers’ struggles are probably more a product of Dame’s slow start than any move Olshey made, but when perhaps the best player in franchise history is disenfranchised, who deserves blame and who gets it doesn’t always line up.
Portland’s fan base reflects its city — ask Dame about the shit he took for backing Billups — so if you think Olshey doing his worst Ari Gold impression doesn’t necessitate his removal, they’re not going to see it like that. Unless there’s some racist or misogynistic stuff in there, the more damning mistake to fans (not to speak of how his employees feel about it), ultimately, will be his failure as a GM.
If you act like an asshole and win, there are fans out there willing to overlook your personality defects. If you act like an asshole and don’t win, fans, and maybe even your own organization, will look for reasons to get rid of you.
As a Trail Blazers fan, Olshey can’t go away fast enough. Not only do I want his hands as far away from the “trade Lillard” nuclear codes as possible, the Blazers need to at least project a sense of stability, because they can’t botch the Dame situation. Daryl Morey and plenty of other NBA GMs were circling before this report came out, and they’re only going to get bolder now that turmoil has come to Portland.
Whatever happens, it’s hard to picture an outcome that makes the organization look good, but for now Portland fans can find solace in the news that shit has caught up to Olshey. It may not be related to his poor performance as a GM, but who cares — as long as he’s gone.