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Blazers Fire Neil Olshey After Taking A Month To Learn He Led A Toxic Workplace

PORTLAND, OREGON - OCTOBER 20: President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on against the Sacramento Kings during the second quarter at Moda Center on October 20, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

One month after The Athletic reported that the Blazers were investigating general manager Neil Olshey for unspecified "workplace misconduct," the team has fired him. Olshey had been in his post since the 2012 offseason, making him one of the longest-tenured GMs in the NBA. In the team's statement, they said Olshey had been fired because their investigation had turned up violations of the team's Code of Conduct.

The Athletic's initial report on the Olshey investigation was light on details, though followup stories from The Athletic's Jason Quick and the Oregonian's Aaron Fentress detailed some of the conduct that ultimately cost Olshey his job. Several current and former team employees told the Oregonian that Olshey was often verbally abusive and that he would routinely "berate, belittle, and intimidate" non-player employees. "Neil was the man, he was the man in power," an anonymous employee said. "That’s how the power structure worked." Two former Blazers players, Dan Dickau and Antonio Harvey, both went on the record to talk about how they'd witnessed Olshey explode and yell at people with little provocation.

It is worth noting that there were plenty of straight-up basketball reasons for the Blazers to can Olshey. He started his job weeks before making one of the best decisions in franchise history and drafting Damian Lillard. Though Olshey's hit on a few picks and built a roster that made nine straight playoff appearances and won four playoff series, the Blazers have always had a pretty hard ceiling. The team has never looked like much of a real contender, and Lillard very nearly dipped out of town this offseason, a choice he might regret now that the team is 11-12, with a first-time coach in a bit over his head, and no obvious path back to the Western Conference Finals.

The Blazers announced that they won't release anything that their third-party investigation turned up, citing "respect for those who candidly participated." Perhaps this is simply legal cover so Olshey can't sue for wrongful termination, though it would have been useful to fans and other teams to have an actual record of what Olshey said and did that warranted his dismissal. Thanks to plugged-in reporters, we have a decent picture of the sort of toxic workplace Olshey fostered during his time in Portland, but the team saying Nothing to see here, he's out! is concealing more than it's disclosing.

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