Everybody around the Trail Blazers knows Neil Olshey has a terrible temper. Everybody. Including Olshey himself. The Portland general manager in 2012 didn’t hire a coach for fear he would clash with his own temper. And after a public outburst at referees in 2017, the Trail Blazers’ top executive couldn’t trust himself to watch a game courtside because of his temper.
Sean Highkin: Damian Lillard: "It was news to me. I came across it like everybody else did. But that's all I know about it, that there's an investigation. ... The best way to lead is to focus on leading the team. We play basketball. My job is to be the point guard. Our jobs continue."
Sean Highkin: Jusuf Nurkic on Neil Olshey and the investigation: "All I know is what's in the release. I can't really say anything else. As far as relationship, I don't think we have one. It's professional. That's it."
Olshey is accused of bullying and intimidating employees and subjecting them to profane tirades, team sources confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive. One long-time Trail Blazers staff member called Olshey’s act “petty and vindictive.” Another said the GM fostered a work environment so toxic that some quit and others sought professional help for psychological trauma.
Olshey, 56, has been on the job in Portland for a decade. We’ve all seen the bully act up close at news conferences. I’ve been subject to a couple of his profane tirades. Once Olshey pulled me aside and blistered me on an opening night. He threatened to revoke my media credential and never speak to me again. Why? Because a few months earlier I wrote in a column that he’d played a round of golf at the Oswego Lake Country Club. Olshey was furious and said it made him appear lazy. “Was the column wrong?” I asked. “(Expletive) you,” Olshey shot back.
Olshey has regularly bullied media members. He threw ex-coach Terry Stotts under the bus at the end of last season. One former basketball operations staff member told me he was berated and threatened by Olshey for circumventing the GM one summer. The staffer sent a note to McGowan inquiring about a job opening on the business operations side. “Neil called and just lit me up,” the former employee said. “It was just F-bombs and Neil said if I ever did it again I’d never work in the league again.”
Said a second former staff member who is no longer working in the NBA: “Neil was a nightmare. I got out. I’m so much happier.”
Olshey swears a lot. He rants often. And he has little patience for incompetence. Catch him at the wrong time and all three of these traits can manifest into a red-faced, vein-popping tornado of anger. For the past 10 years, the norm around the Trail Blazers has been to check the Olshey weather forecast: Bad mood? Best to steer clear of the storm. “He will talk to you however he wants and treat you however he wants. People literally avoid walking his way in the office,” a former employee said.
But as much as Olshey loved Malone’s basketball mind, and his leadership qualities, there was a catch: Malone was a firecracker, unafraid of confrontation or of speaking his mind. Just like Olshey. “I loved Michael,” Olshey once said. “But there was no way two hot-headed Irish Catholics from New York like us could work together. We would kill each other.”
Keep in mind that there are a legion of Blazers employees who swear by him. One longtime employee who has connections to the Blazers’ 1977 championship season reveres Olshey, comparing him to former NBA commissioner David Stern: firm, fair, demanding and exceedingly smart. Other longtime staffers who have been around before Olshey’s arrival say the culture and feeling of being part of a team have never been stronger. Coach Chauncey Billups, who has known Olshey for more than 10 years, said he has never experienced or heard of misconduct by Olshey.
Sean Highkin: Chauncey Billups on the Vulcans’ investigation into Neil Olshey: “Obviously, it’s an unfortunate time. All I know is what I’ve read. There’s not much more I can say about it. I think it caught a lot of people off guard.”
Shams Charania: Statement from the Trail Blazers on the investigation into President/GM Neil Olshey. pic.twitter.com/oJ3eDlP9wK
The Portland Trail Blazers opened an investigation into Neil Olshey — the president of basketball operations — with employees alleging a toxic, hostile work environment where staff members have been subjected to intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Portland Trail Blazers and owner Jody Allen have launched an investigation into president of basketball operations and general manager Neil Olshey, The Athletic has learned. The team is hiring a firm to probe alleged workplace misconduct.
The organization enlisted the services of O’Melveny & Myers to run the independent investigation, and the firm began interviewing employees of the team’s front office off-site this week, with several staffers expressing the relief because of the investigation after 10 years of mistreatment leading to mental and physical stress, sources said.
When contacted about the investigation on Friday night, the Trail Blazers told The Athletic: "We don't have a comment on this matter at this time." Allen also declined to comment to The Athletic on Friday night.
Olshey, 56, was hired by the franchise in 2012. Over his decade as the top basketball decision-maker, multiple employees assert to have had multiple grievances with his treatment of staff in the workplace, sources said. Furthermore, several staff members raised concerns with the organization’s “mishandling” after the death of former video coordinator Zach Cooper in April 2020, sources said.
The firm is shortly expected to submit its findings to team owner Jody Allen, and a decision on Olshey’s future will be determined soon after, sources said. Most staff members are hopeful that the investigation brings change after feeling voiceless and unheard for so long, sources said.
May 21, 2022 | 6:32 am EDT Update
The Lakers may be willing to take that leap of faith because Ham spent two years with the organization. His personality isn’t easily forgotten. Ham brings a lot of energy to a gym. He’s arguably the best fit for the locker room, with veterans like LeBron James, Anthony Davis and possibly Russell Westbrook in need of a coach they can relate to and respect. “He’s the guy LeBron wants,” a competing source said. It will be up to Ham to spell out his basketball vision, in general and in context to the Lakers’ roster makeup. He could be the hire if he can sell that side to the team’s front office.
Stotts may be the opposite of Vogel, a high-level defensive coach with a limited offensive repertoire. If Stotts is the hire, the Lakers should pair him with a high-level lead defensive assistant. Some sources wondered if Stotts would struggle, like Vogel, to command the locker room’s respect, although he worked well with Lillard for a long stretch.
He also has a reputation for being a bit headstrong or rigid in personality. He’s going to demand respect, but he’s going to need to clarify precisely why he and the Nets divorced in-season. Is he the right coach for star players with strong personalities like James? Atkinson may have the most outside-the-box style of the three finalists. Per a competing source, he’s similar to Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, willing to experiment with unconventional strategies to win by whatever means necessary.
Donatas Urbonas: Vasilije Micic on the possibility to go to the NBA next season: “I’m in a situation where I have two more years of the contract no matter what happens. But of course, I like to look at all kinds of challenges. If this option comes out, I would be ready to risk.”
The Warriors came back from a 19-point deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. The Warriors now have a 2-0 advantage in the series. The first two quarters of the game were owned by the Mavericks. They hit 15 3-pointers in the first half, setting a new franchise record for 3s made in a playoff half. Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson became the second pair of starting guards to each score 20 points in the first half of a playoff game in the past 25 seasons. “I told them that if we developed some poise in the second half, the game would come to us,” Kerr said. “But I thought we were so scattered in the first half. Maybe emotionally more so than anything. Dallas came out and just punched us. We felt confident that if we [got poised], they wouldn’t make 15 3s in the second half.”
On defense, Looney held the Mavericks to 1-of-11 shooting from the field as the primary defender, including holding Doncic to 0-of-3. He also grabbed 12 rebounds. Looney is accustomed to being switched onto guards like Doncic. During the Warriors’ dynastic runs, he was switched onto James Harden when Golden State faced Houston multiple times during the postseason. “I take kind of the same approach,” Looney said. “I’m just a little bit more battle-tested. That was my first time playing on a big stage like this. I don’t know if even my teammates had the most faith in me, but they put me out there and I handled it pretty well.
Clutch Points: The Golden State Warriors are 14-1 in playoff series under Steve Kerr when they take a 2-0 lead. Their lone series loss came vs. the Cavs in the 2016 NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/f4Yq6h6zoN