Billups comes with plenty of credentials and accolades, but nearly all of them were acquired during his time as a player. 2020-2021 was Billups’s first time suiting up for the NBA sideline since retirement, serving as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers under Ty Lue.
With next to nothing in his coaching portfolio, it will be hard to predict just how successful Billups will be in his debut season next year. The hire itself though, does provide a glance behind the curtain at how the Blazers are operating at this point in the era.
Damian Lillard and Neil Olshey get their guy
It was announced that franchise superstar Damian Lillard would have a strong influence on the choice for the next Blazers head coach and ultimately, that turned out to be true. Billups was one of two names handpicked by Dame as his top candidates, along with Jason Kidd.
Neil Olshey was also rumored to have preferred Billups for the job since the coaching search began, or perhaps even before then.
Team owner Jody Allen though, allegedly had Spurs Assistant Becky Hammon at the top of her list.
This hiring then indicates two things:
- The Blazers are doing all that they can to keep Lillard in Rip City.
- Neil Olshey will have the final say over basketball operations until he is no longer with the team.
Dubbing Billups as head coach puts all of the responsibility on Olshey’s shoulders, while giving the organization an alibi with Damian Lillard. If the hiring turns out to be a disaster, Dame knows that part of the reason Billups was chosen was because he was the point guard’s preference, and ultimately, Olshey will likely have to bite the bullet if things go south.
In that sense, the hiring was a low-risk move by the organization, but Olshey has to hope that it pays off. The general manager just bet it all on a horse that he’s never seen race before.
What should we expect next from the Portland Trail Blazers with the coaching search concluded
As the contract between Portland and Billups is finalized, an important factor to monitor is how soon he can get started in his new position. If the Los Angeles Clippers continue their playoff run, will that put a hold on his ability to participate in the Blazers plans in the near future?
Even if Olshey doesn’t intend for Billups to play a huge role in roster building, the new head coach should have a major say in cultivating the rest of the staff. The Blazers will most likely take a similar approach to the Brooklyn Nets when picking advisors for Billups’s bench.
Since he’ll be basically a first time head coach with zero experience, ideally Portland would surround him with veteran coaches to aid in the control of specifics and details like clock management, training schedules, rotation building, or even media relations.
A big name to watch is George Karl, who last coached the Sacramento Kings in 2015-2016 and just gave the Blazers a glowing stamp of approval for their choice of Billups.
Could the former head coach come to Portland to turn his star playmaker into a star play caller? Karl would be an excellent assistant, as he’s balanced offensively and defensively, led multiple teams past their preseason expectations, and has a strong relationship with the next head coach.
Seeing how Chauncey Billups fills out his staff will be a good early indicator of what to expect from him on the sidelines for the Blazers next season.