Friday, July 14, 2006

Kevin Pritchard

I got the chance to observe the Blazers' GM-in-waiting during the Courtside Monday Night broadcast last week. Seeing him in person was informative. Heretofore he's been more of a shadowy figure than Steve Patterson, who himself was less visible than John Nash. Since most readers probably haven't seen or heard much from him, I thought it might be interesting to share my impressions. I am not claiming to know the man in any way, nor to have talked to him beyond what I'm going to describe here, so don't take this as "inside" information or gospel on him. It's just one person's observations from a couple hours of watching and one conversation.

The first thing I noticed about Pritchard is that he has a neat combination of being unassuming, yet somehow commanding the room. When he walked in the door and sat down, you pretty much knew it. But it wasn't an obvious, "look at me" thing. One national media guy in Vegas was unmistakable because he strutted around like a peacock listening to the Bee Gees. It was really funny, in a gym full of testosterone, to see a guy acting like he had the most walking with a notebook in hand instead of a basketball. Pritchard wasn't anything like that. He was quiet, didn't say much beyond acknowledging the broadcast crew, but the minute he sat down he was the unspoken center of gravity in the room.

He was either facing backwards or sideways to the fans for most of the proceedings, but you could still tell a couple of things. One, his rapport with his colleagues was respectful, but easy. They really seem to like him a lot and be comfortable around him. They defer to him though. He is the question answerer, even off mic. When he speaks you can hear a pin drop. (I mean I know it's just the broadcast crew, but still, they don't have to respect him like that.) Second, he was generally relaxed through the proceedings, but the line of his shoulders, his back posture, his hand movements...everything just went to another level of intensity when any of the kids were on the air. He seems really, really invested in the players he's drafted. It's great that he's that passionate. It also tells you that this is a guy who, at least right now, doesn't think he's going anywhere, which may tell you something about the ownership and management situation. (On the other hand he may just be the kind of stand-up guy who has decided to give it his all no matter how long he's there, but if that's it he's damn good at it. There was no way he looked like an interim or lame duck in there.)

If you heard the show (or the podcast on the Blazers' site) you heard the things he talked about...culture, family, and the like. He seems honest about that, and as I said before the players and staff are starting to adopt that language, so he's clearly having some effect. He comes across as a guy with a clear vision and enough passion and communication skills to convince others to come along. From what I gathered of the off-air interaction, much of which I saw rather than heard, he listens to those around him. But he also doesn't strike me as the kind of person to suffer fools gladly. You get the sense that he's going to get his way. If he is named GM this will not be a nebulous, John Nash type reign. Right or wrong, his stamp will go on things.

Business management has been moving towards the "lead strongly from among instead of above" theory for years. Pritchard seems to be able to pull it off.

I did get a small chance to talk to him after the proceedings. It wasn't much because I didn't want to disturb him, but he was kind enough to rise from his seat when I approached even though he didn't know me from Adam, which showed something about the kind of guy he is. I didn't introduce myself as being from this blog because...well...that seemed a little tacky, like I was trying to self-promote or something. I mean I love doing this and I'm amazed at all the energy you guys put into reading and responding, but I have no illusions about the cosmic importance of what we're doing here. Introducing myself like the next GM of the Blazers should notice a speck in the online world like this seemed presumptuous, especially with real media people like Barrett, Harvey, Wheeler, Rice, and Marentette in the room. Anyway, I asked him a couple questions, he took the time to answer, and that was it. He didn't treat it as an inconvenience. He actually seemed like the kind of guy who just liked to talk basketball, no matter who it's with, which is strangely familiar to me...

So all in all I was impressed, and my guess is we should be comfortable if and when Pritchard is named as the next GM. I guess the only concerns would be if his passion would blind him to reality (like being really invested in a guy who turned out to be not as great as he hoped or invested in his guys but not other people's), but everyone's strengths are also their weaknesses, so that's no special fault. It will be interesting to see how the team and the organizational climate fare under his watch.

EDIT: 2forLarue asked in the comment section and a couple of others have asked by e-mail what questions I asked Mr. Pritchard. I am 100% sure that he didn't tell me anything he would not have told anybody...I have no secret, privileged information. But fair is fair and I did not approach him saying I was going to put his comments in a blog, and even in such a small forum as this I don't feel comfortable doing so without having let him know that first. I have a big pet peeve about people who go into a public forum and say, "Here is the conversation I had with Person X" and then reprint the whole thing. It feels self-indulgent...like "Look at me! I'm so special!" Mr. Pritchard didn't talk to me because I was special, he talked to me because he was gracious and kind enough to do so. I'd feel crass even giving the appearance of turning that kindness around for my advantage at his expense. It seemed important to add the conversation into the post in an era where management has been known for being distant and out of touch. But I'd prefer to leave it as being about him rather than what was said. I hope that's cool with everyone. To ease your minds though, we just talked about a peripheral player who is unlikely to affect the course of the team. Nothing revolutionary.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

12 Comments:

Blogger 2forLaRue said...

Dave,

Excellent insight and much appreciated (as always). Nice of you to confirm what I hoped!

So, uh, Dave - what did you ask him and what his response?!

10:42 AM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

I am not opposed to his being annointed as GM.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous TP43 said...

Interesting stuff Dave, maybe there really is something to all this stuff about San Antonio loving Pritchard and him being a true disciple of building in that mold. You could do a lot worse than modeling the Blazers after the Spurs. A tight knit, professional roster that is community friendly is also a great fit psychologically with PDX.

Just my opinion, but maybe the brass situation is better than we could have hoped for (still not a Patterson fan) and I'm becoming more inclined to believe Paul isn't going anywhere. I've been pretty well convinced this is all about regaining control of the building vs selling and all these little tidbits just keep adding up to make me feel more confident this will be the outcome. Let's just hope they're smart enough to allow Global Spectrum to continue running the building.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

2for...I edited the post at the end to respond to your question because other people have asked too. In short I don't feel right repeating the conversation, but it was not a huge deal anyway.

BP...a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one.

TP...I agree that you could do a lot worse than the San Antonio model. I hope that as they pursue the "family" model they include fans and media in that family instead of circling the wagons and making it the Blazer Family vs. everybody else. That is my only concern. Family can be a double-edged sword...

--Dave

2:05 PM  
Anonymous luke said...

i wanted to give this blog some reads before adding this, but i have to say that this is hands down the best blazer fan blog on the web, imo, and actually the best team centered blog i've come across.

please keep up the great work. i think your readership will really spike up come the new season.

also, going to vegas was class. great insight.

cheers.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Scott R said...

again, thanks for the insight Dave. you have a way of being able to divulge information w/out seeming like you are on a soapbox. Some of the other sports writers i've read could really take note of your style. Your class and enthusiasm will hopefully be rewarded ten fold someday.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Oh wow guys, stop! You're making me blush. But seriously, thank you. I just love talking about the team and hearing from folks who like to do likewise. And besides, coming back from Vegas I got the serious impression that it's a good time to be a Blazer fan.

--Dave

5:41 PM  
Anonymous jorga said...

So how DID you introduce yourself to KP? "Hi I'm Dave, I'm a fan who just happened to be in Las Vegas and thought I'd drop by?"

You mustn't be too humble about this blog. We know Eric reads it because he's lifted things from you (with credit, of course; he seems like a straight-up guy too) and has made some positive comments about it/you.

Perhaps upper management leaves the blog reading to underlings, but you know that somebody in that office knows this blog and, just maybe, your comments may get back to Pritchard and he'll say "I wish I'd known he was THAT Dave" :-)

----

Who do you think have been the most successful GMs in Blazerland? Does anyone stand out as having had the best insight as to filling the team's immediate needs as well as an eye to the future?

And what can we fans do between now and training camp???!!!

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Dave said...

Pritchard would be a good fit at GM. Indeed it has been his self-proclaimed goal. His association with the Jayhawks and Spurs certainly qualifies him as a winner. And as a former player, you've got to think his area of expertise leans more toward evaluating talent and knowing how athletes think, than business matters.

I'll join the chorus in here and say " Thanks, Dave! ". You are one Ace Reporter.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

dave keep up the great work
if the blazers get a top 3 pick
in next year's draft, i'll fly
you to nyc for the lottery
i'll show you around, take you
to the vill and chill and put
you up i'm serious !!!!!
you*me should be there at msg
in person to welcome 1 of the
big 3 to the family let me
know !!!!!

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would advise next time that you do introduce yourself as "a fan and a blogger" so that #1 - Pritchard knows who he's talking to for the next time the two of you meet, and #2, so you can repeat whatever he told you in whatever form you want. Believe it or not, you are a journalist, and for your own freedom and ethics reasons - as well as Pritchard benefitting from knowledge of who he's talking to - you should let people know who you are.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice to hear..Keep up the good work man..

3:28 PM  

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