If you are surprised over the firing of Rich Cho as general manager (GM) of the Portland Trail Blazers this Monday, you are not the only one. Rich Cho was reportedly shocked, too, having had no inkling of it.
Though we were saddened over the firing of Don Wakamatsu from the Mariners, we were still able to find a reason in it — he was the manager during one of the worst seasons in team history. Some of us saw his dismissal coming, at the very least.
Cho’s firing was very unexpected.
After a decent season despite some player injuries, Cho’s firing could be described, at best, as a strange decision from the top, especially since team owner Paul Allen and Blazers President Larry Miller were both enthusiastically singing Cho’s praises last July.
Cho will be the second GM to leave the Blazers amid a stir of controversy in less than a year. In 2010, former GM Kevin Pritchard, who was also, at one point, dubbed Portland’s saving grace by the higher-ups, was harshly pushed out of the club only an hour before the 2010 draft.
Apparently, Cho wasn’t fired over his performance, but rather over his lack of chemistry with Allen — which seems rather mystifying because when Cho was first hired, he was a well-respected assistant GM from Oklahoma City who was well-known for his ability to connect with people.
Cho was a fresh face and a fresh mind to the franchise. He brought with him a gift for analysis — in handling contracts and in using newer statistics to gauge player effectiveness. The rationale behind bringing someone young and new into an established franchise is to give the franchise a reboot, to create never-before-seen success with new ideas.
The problem is that sometimes conflicts can arise when two strong people at the top, like Allen and Cho, pull each other in different directions.
Oftentimes as Asian Americans, we forget that work relationships are just as important as job performance. We think that if we simply do our job well, everything will fall into place.
Sometimes, as was the case with Cho and Allen, it’s not so simple to just show up and do your job.
Wakamatsu was the first Asian American manager in Major League Baseball. Cho was the first Asian American GM in the NBA. Neither lasted very long, which is very unfortunate because we need more talented and capable Asian Americans at the head of professional sports teams to serve as examples and inspirations for our youth. ♦