Wednesday, May 7
Whitsitt steps down after turbulent season
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Trail Blazers president and general manager Bob Whitsitt stepped down Wednesday just days after the team ended a troubled season marked by legal troubles, suspensions and infighting.
Whitsitt, who has held the job for the past nine years, will retain his job as president of the Seattle Seahawks. Both the Trail Blazers and the Seahawks are owned by Microsoft pioneer Paul Allen.
Whitsitt's resignation is effective June 30. Allen said in a statement that the team would immediately begin the search for a both a president and a general manager, rather than filling the single post that Whitsitt held.
Since Whitsitt, 46, took over the job with the Trail Blazers in 1994, the team has compiled a 376-248 overall record (.603) with 14 straight winning seasons and 21 straight trips to the playoffs. This season the Blazers went 50-32.
But he has faced increasing criticism for the team's on-court performance and off-court problems.
The past season has been especially turbulent. Forward Rasheed Wallace, guard Damon Stoudamire and rookie Qyntel Woods were all cited for marijuana possession. Ruben Patterson was arrested for domestic abuse, charges his wife later asked not be pursued.
Wallace was suspended for seven games by the league for threatening a referee on the loading dock after a game in January, and Patterson scuffled with forward Zach Randolph during a practice. Randolph was suspended for two games by the team for punching Patterson and breaking his eye socket.
The Blazers -- who have the highest payroll in the league at $105 million -- were ousted from the playoffs in seven games by the Dallas Mavericks, after first-round sweeps by the Los Angeles Lakers in the previous two seasons.
Over the course of Whitsitt's tenure, different players have been suspended 20 times. There have been 15 arrests.
"We hope our fans will show patience and support as we bring in a new general manager and president, and evaluate our future plans for the team," Allen said in a prepared statement. "We also expect the Blazers themselves to work hard and demonstrate their commitment to improving on and, just as importantly, off the court."
Whitsitt drew the ire of fans several years ago by trading popular forward Brian Grant to Miami for out-of-shape, unproductive forward Shawn Kemp from Cleveland.
Kemp entered a drug rehabilitation center for cocaine use in April 2001, near the end of his first season as a Blazer. He returned for the 2001-02 season but was suspended for five games in February for failing to comply with his aftercare program.
The Blazers finally waived Kemp last August after restructuring his contract, reportedly paying him $20 million over the next 10 years.
In November, following a spate of off-court problems, Whitsitt vowed that the team would be more careful in making future player personnel decisions.
"Paul Allen and I would like to apologize to our fans," Whitsitt said, speaking on behalf of Allen, the technology billionaire who owns the Blazers. "We have to do a better job, our players have to do a better job, we have to get it right. This is embarrassing, it's disappointing, it's frustrating. I'm sure we've got a lot of angry fans."
Allen reportedly wants Whitsitt to focus on the Seahawks.
The Trail Blazers organization held a staff meeting Wednesday, with Allen, Whitsitt and other front-office personnel in attendance. Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks was also at the team's offices but would not comment as he arrived.
When Whitsitt took over the Seattle SuperSonics at age 30, becoming the youngest president in the NBA, Seattle had won just 31 games in the previous two seasons and were ranked last in the league in attendance.
In eight years as general manager, Whitsitt oversaw a Supersonics team that went 377-279 and went to the postseason seven times, including two trips to the Western Conference finals.
He was named NBA executive of the year in his final season with the Seahawks, after Seattle won 63 games and sold out every regular season home game.