Despite being adored by fans for being the man responsible for making the Trail Blazers what they are today, General Manager Kevin Pritchard was fired Thursday, just hours before the start of the NBA Draft. And fans aren't taking it lightly.
After months of speculation that Pritchard was no longer in favor of billionaire owner Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers management issued a press release that stated what many fans had feared.
"This process was more public and took longer than any of us would have liked, but that was indicative of how critical a decision this was for the franchise," said Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. "We want to thank and acknowledge Kevin for his solid work getting us to where we are today. Parting ways with a popular general manager is not something we take lightly. In the end, we decided to make a change."
General consensus among vocal fans on the web has been overwhelmingly negative to the firing, calling into question Allen's decision-making process and lack of transparency.
Even the Blazer-owned blog -- www.iamatrailblazersfan.com – posters were not pleased with either the firing or of the way Allen handled the press after the official statement. Allen reportedly left the Tualatin training facility minutes before staff notified press of Pritchard's dismissal.
Nearly every post on the subject criticized Allen's decision. Only one poster raised the obvious question: Why was he dismissed?
"If it was simple politics because Pritchard tried to position himself to ask for a better job, and Paul Allen felt betrayed, then yes, I think Vulcan and Allen deserve all the criticism," wrote blazer003. "But, if it was something else, something deeper that KP and Tom Penn actually did wrong, then perhaps:
1. We'll never get to know what it was. And 2. His firing was completely deserved and called for, and they only kept him around till the draft to not destroy everything he's worked for.
I simply can't bring myself to believe that he was fired over simple politics; I certainly don't believe he was fired over performance. So, I have to believe there was something more."
One fan, Brian Libby, even started a petition to save Pritchard's job the day before the firing, to no avail. He had collected over 1,000 signatures.
Pritchard, 42, joined the Trail Blazers as the team's director of player personnel prior to the 2004-05 season and served as the team's interim head coach for the final 27 games of the campaign, according to the press release.
"This was an extremely difficult decision," Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said. "We wish Kevin well, and thank him for his valuable leadership and his many contributions. We remain dedicated to building a team of strong character and talent, as we stay firmly committed to bringing another championship to Portland."