“The Blogfather” himself, Henry Abbott has a great article on the Tom Penn situation. Abott does a fantastic job of capturing both the enthusiasm and scrutiny of the Portland fan base while hinting at a Blazer fan’s greatest fears. “What if Pritchard gets fired and the magic goes away?” “What if the clock strikes midnight and we’re nowhere near the ball because the carriage’s patella tendon snapped?” In the midst of a great snapshot-in-time of the Portland fan base, Abott has this quote by Pritchard’s agent, Warren LeGarie:
“I think their fears are justified,” says Warren LeGarie who represents both Pritchard and Penn, when asked if he could say anything to settle down Blazer fans. He offered no tonics. “We’ve been given no indication that this team sees Kevin as somebody who will be there on a long-term basis. All we’ve seen is them taking away people that Kevin feels are important to his ability to do his job successfully. … I’ve been a Blazer fan from early on. I’ve been involved in some way with the team for many many years. I want them to be successful. They gave Kevin an unbelievably wonderful opportunity. But in order to make that opportunity work, he still needs to have people who believe in him around him, and people that he’d like to have, and that’s certainly not the case anymore.”
Scary stuff right? Stoking the fires of discontent, riling up the fan base in support of a popular general manager, maybe even forcing the organization to demonstrate its long term commitment with a fat new contract? Unthinkable? Think again.
Some of the most interesting stuff in Abbot’s article comes from Blazer president Larry Miller, who denies just about every possible reason for Penn’s firing. Rather than quoting half of Henry’s piece, just get over to Truehoop and read it.
Dwight Jaynes also weighs in. Jaynes has been around the Blazers for a long (looooong) time. In that time, you tend to develop a big-picture view of people. If you’re around someone for long enough, chances are, you will see who they really are. Dwight draws on his ancient wisdom, back to the year my now 20 year old brother was born, and produces this pearl:
Early in November of 1990, the Blazers were off to a 6-0 start and all was well. It was obvious they would have one of the best teams in the league. Petrovic, still early in his career, wasn’t going to play much behind Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Danny Ainge and Danny Young, but the Blazers loved him and knew he’d someday be a very good player. But Petro, one of my all-time favorite Blazers, was going to have to be patient and wait his turn.
But LeGarie was his agent and just couldn’t wait. He wanted minutes for his client and he wanted them immediately. So he had Drazen tell the press that if he didn’t play more he wanted a trade or he’d go back to Europe. The team knew it wasn’t coming from Petrovic — it was his agent, stirring up stuff on a winning team.
“The one thing I resented more than anything was that his agent, Warren LeGarie, told Drazen to make that statement, thinking he could force us to trade him or play him,” Adelman said in the book. “He was saying things about our team and about me, saying I was lying. He said I didn’t like Drazen and it was totally untrue. And this was a guy, this agent, whom I hadn’t talked to in two years about Drazen.
It appears that Warren LeGarie is no stranger to strong-arm tactics. However LeGarie is not the bad guy; he’s just doing his job, pulling out every trick in the book to try to put his client in the most favorable position possible in order to get the most favorable payday possible. In fact, if LeGarie weren’t pulling all these stunts, Pritchard would be right to fire him. Being an agent, like being an attorney, requires you to zealously represent your client, doing all you can to give them any advantage. Right now, in my opinion, LeGarie is leveraging the rabid Portland fan base against Paul Allen and Vulcan to force them to give Pritchard a bigger contract. The fans are angry! The only tonic to soothe their rage is a long term contract showing the organization’s commitment to Pritchard for the long haul!
I think it’s plain for all to see that Kevin Pritchard is talent. Paul Allen knows he is talent, Vulcan knows he is talent. Without Kevin Pritchard, the Trail Blazers would likely be farther away from profitability than they are now and fielding a less successful team. So what is more likely, that Allen and Vulcan have decided that Pritchard is expendable, in spite of all he has done for the organization, or is it more likely that an agent is preying on the paranoia of a fan base confused about the Tom Penn firing in order to serve his client’s interests?
Ah yes, the Tom Penn firing, why did it happen? Well, if the people at One Center Court do their job, we will never know. Let me repeat that, if the Trail Blazers front office acts in compliance with Penn’s contract and the likely confidentiality clauses therein, and in a manner to ensure compliance with relevant employment laws, we will never find out why Penn was fired. Penn is an attorney, and apparently a good one. If word were to leak out about why Penn was fired, the lawsuit would likely come fast and furious. As Blazer fans, we feel like we have an interest, or even a right to know what is going on behind the scenes of a team we have invested so much time, money, and emotion into. However, at the end of the day the Trail Blazers are a business and business decisions involve contracts and back rooms and confidentiality agreements and the like. Blazer fans have no right to know why Penn was fired and should hope that the Blazer front office is competent enough that we never find out.