By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Monday, May 23, Burmese American Rich Cho was fired as general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. Cho was the ninth general manager in Trail Blazers’ history — fifth since 2003 — and was hired in July 2010. He was also the first Asian American general manager in NBA history.
“I think the big issue was chemistry between him and the owner,” Blazers President Larry Miller told CBSSports.com, referring to Paul Allen, who also owns the Seattle Seahawks. “They were just never able to click,” Miller said. “Rich is a smart guy, a really nice guy, brings some talents to the table, but I think if the chemistry isn’t right, it’s hard for it to work.” <!–more–>
Miller said that Cho was shocked over the news of his termination.
“I think over the course of time that Rich has been here, there was the realization that the chemistry just wasn’t there, and we didn’t feel it was going to get any better moving forward,” Miller told The Associated Press.
The Blazers finished the regular season with a record of 48–34, though the team suffered from injuries. There were three years left on Cho’s contract.
“This decision, as difficult as it was to make, reflects our willingness to admit and recognize that things haven’t worked out,” Allen said in a statement. “We’re going to be tough on ourselves in assessing what we could have done better, and then go out and find the executive who is the best fit with the needs of our franchise. That chemistry and connection is critically important.”
One significant issue arose during Cho’s time with the team. Guard Brandon Roy made critical comments about his playing time and role on the team. The Oregonian reported that Cho wanted to suspend Roy over the comments, but Allen disagreed, and Roy was not suspended.
Miller said that the incident with Roy did not figure into Cho’s departure from the team.
Cho declined to give public interviews, but he did release a statement through the team’s public relations department. “Obviously, it’s a difficult day, but I want to truly thank Paul Allen and Larry Miller for the opportunity they gave me here in Portland,” Cho said in his statement. “I also want to thank the fans, players, coaches, business office staff, and especially my basketball operations staff who have supported me along the way. I feel good about the work we’ve done here, and I know the Trail Blazers are headed in the right direction.”
Cho was born in Myanmar, but his family moved to the United States in 1968 when he was 3 years old.
They settled in Federal Way, and he attended Decatur High School.
After graduating from Washington State University with a degree in engineering, Cho worked for five years as an engineer at Boeing before deciding to go to law school. While working on his law degree at Pepperdine University Law School, he interned with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1995.
Cho was eventually promoted to assistant general manager and vice president of legal affairs. He drafted and reviewed player contracts, assisted in contract negotiations, and worked on the salary cap support for free agent signings and trades for both the Sonics and the Seattle Storm. Cho also handled all the legal work that came with the business, such as sponsorship agreements, licensing issues, employment contracts, and immigration issues.
Cho spent nine seasons as assistant general manager of the Sonics and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Miller said there is no timetable for finding a new general manager. The team’s Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan will act as interim general manager for the time being. ♦
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.