Meet The New Boss


I was kind of aimlessly watching television the other day, just kind of flipping around, and I landed on Pulp Fiction playing on HBO. I came in right at the start of The Bonnie Situation. If you know the movie, you know the part I’m talking about.

Although I’ve seen Pulp Fiction about a hundred times, this time I was particularly taken with the following conversation between Jules Winnfield and Marsellus Wallace:

Jules: I don’t want to hear ‘bout no **EXPLETIVE** ifs. All I wanna hear from your **EXPLETIVE** is, “You ain’t go no problem Jules. I’m on the **EXPLETIVE**. Go back inside, chill them **EXPLETIVE**s out and wait for the cavalry, which should be coming directly.”

Marsellus: You ain’t go no problem Jules. I’m on the **EXPLETIVE**. Go back inside, chill them **EXPLETIVE**s out and wait for The Wolf, who should be coming directly.

Jules: You sending The Wolf?

Marsellus: Oh, you feel better now, **EXPLETIVE**?

Why exactly do I bring up this seminal scene from classic American cinema? Think of it like this. If the Portland Trail Blazers’ universe were Pulp Fiction as represented in that scene, the frantic Jules Winnfield is the team’s fan base and the cool and confident Marsellus Wallace is an amalgamation of Blazers’ billionaire recluse owner Paul Allen and Portland’s born to stonewall President Larry Miller.

Marvin, the low level thug who suffered an unfortunate pistol shot to face starting the series of events that is The Bonnie Situation, is the team itself, at one point living and breathing and now dead and in desperate need of cleaning up. Jimmie, the owner of the house in the valley where Jules and his partner Vincent Vega have ended up with a car full of blood and brains, is the city of Portland: ready to help, but also a half inch from just totally losing it should anything at all go incorrectly in even the slightest.

Which brings me to…The Wolf.

Coming in to save the day and doing it in a way that is at once slick, calculated, and carried off as if the positive end result were never in question, The Wolf is Portland’s newest General Manager Neil Olshey.

Or at least that was the impression we were all supposed to get when Olshey was formally introduced to the media Tuesday afternoon at the Rose Garden as the Blazers’ GM.

And as far as I’m concerned, the organization succeeded in making us believe that help had finally arrived. If I could use one word to describe Olshey after spending nearly a half an hour listening to him talk and field questions, it would be “polished.”

This guy was ready. The Portland media isn’t the New York or LA media, but there are questions to be answered, and now there’s a guy to answer them. And answer them Mr. Neil Olshey did.

Using words like “deal flow,” and “long term,” and “no quick fixes,” and “Western Conference Championships,” Olshey laid out a generalized plan of attack to resurrect a franchise that took a step backwards in 2011-12.

It wasn’t all softballs and home runs of prognostication though. Olshey answered a few tough questions about Chad Buchanan, Kaleb Canales, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, drafting, and potential free agents.

His answers were concise and clear: Buchanan is part of the staff for now and he and Olshey will talk about the future when not working together to decide which former college players get to be drafted by the Blazers; other people are welcome to come knocking for Portland’s available head coaching job but they’ll have to prove they are better than Coach K; Nic and LA are Portland’s Blake Griffin and Chris Paul; the Blazers are going to work hard on the 2012 NBA Draft, and will not go all out to land big name free agents (Steve Nash) that aren’t going to be around seven seasons from now.

Certainly some of what Olshey said came off as lip service, but given a choice, I would take a guy with a sunny façade that ends up being not quite the truth than a guy that can’t or doesn’t answer the more difficult questions because he chooses not to be dishonest.

The big question though on everybody’s mind Tuesday was Olshey’s reaction to the disarray that has gone hand-in-hand with the Blazers’ General Manager position over the last five-plus seasons. Olshey handled questions of this nature by saying what everyone would expect him to say: he and Paul Allen are on the same page, and they share a vision of what Portland should strive to look like in the future. Let’s see how long all that lasts.

I expect Allen to extend his new GM as long a leash as he needs, but there’s always a chance yet another GM/owner relationship can turn sour at a moments notice.

My primary takeaway from Olshey’s first press conference, apart from his natural ability to schmooze like a champ, is that his main goal as General Manager of the Blazers is to make his team into winners, and not just winners next season, but winners period end of sentence.

He brought up that his former team, the LA Clippers, traveled with a deep tissue message therapist, and that everything he and the rest of the front office staff does and will do is and will be done to better serve the players, the ones who actually do the work on the court.

In the NBA, winning is the only thing that really matters. The city of Portland, the fans, the team, the ownership, all of it will take care of itself as long as the Blazers are winning. And ultimately, that’s why Olshey is here.

In Pulp Fiction, The Wolf does his job; The Bonnie Situation is handled. Jules and Vincent go get breakfast dressed as a couple of dorks.

The first step in handling any situation, The Bonnie Situation and The Blazer Situation alike, is to prove that the right person has been brought in to do the job.

In what he described as his favorite press conference ever, Larry Miller introduced Olshey as that right man for this job. Now, like The Wolf, it’s up to Olshey to make good.

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject