Why Portland Trail Blazers fans are divided by Chauncey Billups hire

Chauncey Billups, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Chauncey Billups, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

As you will undoubtedly be aware of, there has been more than an acceptable amount of blowback regarding the hiring of Chauncey Billups as head coach for the Portland Trail Blazers. In the recent press conference where he was officially unveiled, The Athletic’s Jason Quick asked a valid question regarding the sexual assault occurring in 1997. A perfect chance perhaps for Billups to use this particular platform to address the situation and to make clear his position on what happened that evening and to not be sheepish in a response.

Instead, he and General Manager Neil Olshey both give a distressed look back at Quick, Olshey relayed the look over to Blazers PR which ended in the question swiftly being shot down. Olshey and Billups chose to use their one pass on this question during this press conference, however, I doubt they will be able to dodge these types of questions as easily when they inevitably get asked again throughout his tenure.

Still, after all of this, the fans seem to be evenly split. A wonderful piece by Dave Deckard touched on the real impact these appointments have on women within the Trail Blazers community, titled In Their Own Words: Five Women Offer Thoughts on Chauncey Billups Hire.

Portland Trail Blazers, Neil Olshey,
Portland Trail Blazers, Neil Olshey, /

Portland Trail Blazers fans are divided about the hiring of Chauncey Billups

One half is quick to demand answers from Billups and Olshey on his decision to hire him, the other half is just as quick to jump to Chauncey’s defense and to just “focus on his career within basketball.”

We now have to ask ourselves, “how much longer can we justify these types of coaching hires and when will it be deemed more socially acceptable to hire a female head coach with a more than competitive resume than a man who, to put it more than lightly, has a checkered past?”

Just as the shortlist for the head coaches was getting trimmed down slowly but surely, there were two names who were constantly being favored for the top job, Chauncey Billups and Becky Hammon.

Hammon has been constantly linked with head coaching roles for years now, mainly based on the merit of her success as an assistant coach to Gregg Popovich for 7 years now with the Spurs. The number of times she has been interviewed for the top job and not been hired has no doubt been detrimental to the average NBA fan’s outlook on her.

It seems in some people’s minds, she is linked just because of her gender, as she has been unfortunate in not being offered the head coach role at several franchises. I believe more realistically; it is because of the fear of a negative reaction from fans if she was ever hired.

Somehow, Olshey believes in the idea that hiring Billups creates less of an issue and therefore goes for the ‘safer’ option and it is broadly more acceptable. A league that allows this culture of situations where it is acceptable to hire someone who has a history of sexual assault, rather than someone who is more than qualified for even just the chance of being a head coach of a team based on their gender, is where the problem lies.

Olshey and Billups’ relationship harps back to their Clipper days, with Olshey as the General Manager and acquiring the point guard in his second season as GM. This hiring further highlights the priority of high-end relationships within the league. The appointment of Jason Kidd to the Mavs is another great example of this being a league-wide issue.

This is proof that the main priority in these appointments is not based on their capability for the role. Kidd has been fired from two previous head coaching roles after he failed to make any real impact with two solid Eastern Conference squads in the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. Billups has only ever been an assistant coach for one season before getting the chance to prove himself as the main man.

If there are any positives to take away from how this is acceptable in the league for ex-players to not have to hold themselves accountable, it is that there is a genuine portion of fans within Portland and around the league that object to this, and rightly so. Billups will have to face the pressure of not only being the head coach of a team that is at a crossroads but also the added scrutiny from fans in how he conducts himself.

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