Kevin Pritchard GENERAL MANAGER
Façonnable dress shirt. Robust handshake. Sustained eye contact that’s as eerie as it is magnetic. Friendly, not-quite-patronizing speech littered with polished spin. A distinguished-looking sedan parked in the lot. By any measure and every detail, Kevin Pritchard is the epitome of upper management.
Under Pritchard’s three-year reign as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, the team has enjoyed the biggest turnaround in its 40-year history. In 2006, Portland was moribund, bouncing through the motions in front of an empty Rose Garden. Last year, the Blazers won 54 games, made the playoffs, and turned the Rose Garden into the hottest ticket in town. It’s an ideal business-school case study. Think about it: clean-cut executive takes control of much-beloved business, cleans house, preaches community values and outreach, handpicks talent throughout the organization, and creates opportunities for the team to succeed. Most impressively, though, Pritchard has lifted the spirits of a franchise that had become accustomed to losing and has helped rekindle the fans’ throaty chants of “Rip City.”
But Pritchard’s golden touch, and the leaguewide envy it’s generated, have also changed him. As the national media has tried to figure out how this Svengali works his magic, Pritchard has evolved from fresh and hungry to entrenched and guarded. The fiery former point guard who used to yell or wag a finger in disgust has now taken to out-of-body self-reflection.
When his right-hand man, Tom Penn, was offered a promotion by a rival organization, Pritchard greeted the potential departure wistfully: the attempted poaching was, he said, a reaffirmation of the Blazers’ new culture. To no one’s great surprise, Penn ended up staying put. After big-name free agent Hedo Turkoglu spurned Portland by signing with the Toronto Raptors, Pritchard offered only token disappointment (“We want players who want to be here,” he said), brushing off a $50 million offer and franchise-transforming move as if they were wayward insects. In August, he publicly announced Brandon Roy’s massive $80 million contract extension. But privately, Pritchard issued a challenge to his new superstar: “What is your destiny going to be?” Pritchard treated this moment, one of the most significant in his tenure, with existential examination.
Now comes the hard part: trusting his vision and hard work to pay off in the present. Pritchard’s fondness for poring over statistical analysis and his card shark’s gift for fleecing other owners out of talent have earned him the spotlight, but ultimately, the probabilities and random chance of the game will be his judge.