Q&A: Neil Olshey

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Thursday, January 08, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of Mike Richman

This has to be a good feeling

Yeah it does. It feels great. Paul Allen's been an unbelievable owner since the day I got here. He's committed unlimited resources to rebuilding the organization from the business division, to basketball, the coaching staff and he's delivered on that. The fact that he sees where the organization is heading and is willing to embrace the current philosophy that we have and support all of us is just unparalleled.

It's got to be nice to be able to carry out your vision

Look, one of the things that's really important to get across is that it's collective. I'm not the only one up in that office. We have 40 or 50 people that work up there everyday. And the efforts of all those people, whether it's the scouts, the front office, people back of the house, the job Terry (Stotts) and his staff have done has been unbelievable. But knowing that you have someone you can turn to from a leadership standpoint like Paul, when you need help, when you need guidance, when you need resources and he's always there and he's so committed to the organization, it gives you a blanket of comfort knowing that you've got the support.

What does the new title mean and does it change anything in your day to day?

Nothing. What the title does - I really appreciate it - but what it does is that in the event at some point if we want to hire, or promote from within, someone to the General Manager level we wouldn't be restricted, by title, that the General Manager positions was already taken. Like I said, down the road if there was a talent available or if internally we wanted to make sure we kept someone's services and the title was an issue, we now have a title open there as opposed to having it closed off.

When you came to Portland did you think it would be like this?

I hoped so. I didn't leave for nothing. I love the Los Angeles Clippers and I had a great run there. It was hard for my wife and my family, my kids to move out of the only city they'd ever lived in, but they were willing to do it to support me. Like I said, it all just kind of worked in place. We hired Terry, he's been an incredible coach. Chris (McGowan) came on board not longer after me after me and completely revamped everything going on up here. And Like I said, having Paul embrace the vision of every one; what goes on on the court, off the court, behind the scenes. It's been a great run so far and I think we just got to the point where we were relevant quicker than we anticipated. Now the key is to sustain that and I know Paul drives us every day to make sure we put the best product on court for the fans. I think right now we've got the fans, the season ticket holders, in a really good place in terms of their support of the team and the kind of guys and culture that we have. And it's our job everyday that we keep that as consistent as possible.

Is there an accomplishment you are most proud of?

I think culturally. I think that we've never had to address an off the court incident since we were here while we're winning. It's one thing to do that and have a bunch of choir boys and not win as many games, but to have guys that are great guys as well as great players. The work that these guys do...we were at Doernbecher during the holidays, watching the guys interact with those kids. We're going to St. Mary's later on this month...just how committed our players are in the community and knowing how important they are and the presence the Trail Blazers have in this marketplace. That while being able to win games is probably the thing I'm most proud of.

Can you speak to the growth of your young players this year?

Look, that's a testament to the coaching staff. Terry and his assistants are on the floor everyday working with these guys, watching film. They're a big part of what we do even if they're not getting the minutes they normally would. And look some of our young players are a little bit hamstrung that they got drafted by a lottery team and they woke up as a second round playoff team. Just the reality is that teams don't win at the level we're winning at with young players and they've got to wait their turn. But what we are all pleased with is that Terry shows the confidence in them to play them in big moments. It's very rare that you see an guy go from the inactive list to a starting small forward and see a team go 4-0. We saw a great effort from Meyers the other night. Everybody has stepped up. And I think more than anything, our young guys are ego-less. They know their minutes are going to be situational and they'll sit and wait and support each other when they get their chance and when the veterans come back they're willing to take a back seat again.

Timing-wise was it good to get this out of the way mid-season?

I was open to doing this whenever Paul and Bert Kolde and the organization were willing to do it. I came up here and I joked a lot about the rain and it was a culture shock for my family, but not unlike Chris' kids, my kids love it here. I'm not so happy they decide to go to shorts and a T-shirt to school everyday when it's 38 and raining, but they're Oregonians now. They love it here. My wife's happy. And quite honestly, my life is my job. As long as things are going well with  the Trail Blazers every  day I come to work, and they are, I'm happy. The concern is for me is how my family is doing. And they love it here and they're happy off the court. So if my family is happy in their personal life and I'm doing what our owner needs us to do in my professional life then everything is going in the right direction.

Is there an advantage to having this deal done help maintain player or lure free agents, because players know you're going to be here long term?

Well I think from a consistency standpoint, the relationship not just with the players but with their agents, you've got an open line of communication. You know what's important to the players. You know what direction they want to go in in terms of the rest of their career or the next step. That helps. At the end of the day the players in this organization trust this organization. They trust Paul's commitment, they trust the Trail Blazers, they trust the infrastructure that's in place and the culture and they trust the style of basketball that we play. And that's what's paramount to them. At the end of the day, whether I'm the general manager or I'm not the general manger that doesn't change much quite honestly. But as long as the culture is the one we've built and the one that they're embracing right now and that they're performing in that's what going to make them make a decision hopefully to stay with us when they become free agents.

Where does this team go?

One of the things we talked about when we took over was sustainability and I think the key was to prove to everybody was to prove that last year wasn't a fluke; that the core of this team can compete for a championship and being a factor in the playoff race. I think, we're only a third of the way through the season, but I think there enough positive indicators to know we're on the right track. We'll look for opportunities if we can to improve the roster to give Terry and his staff and better chance of competing at a higher level. But at the end of the day we're comfortable with where we are evidenced by tonight. How many national television games do we have this year relative to previous year? Which means there's an appetite nationally for the style of basketball that we play and the success that we've had.