I guess that evaluation didn’t go so well, did it Terry.
After being eliminated from the playoffs last Thursday, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said everyone would be evaluated in the offseason to see how the team would move forward, but the next day, the team announced that they had parted ways with their longtime bench boss already.
Stotts leaves Oregon after nine years at the wheel, including eight straight playoff appearances, the longest active streak in the NBA. The 63-year-old put together a 402-318 record during his tenure, making him the second-winningest head coach in franchise history, trailing only the great Jack Ramsay, who led the team from 1976-1986, including their only NBA championship run in 1977.
Despite being the sixth seed, Damian Lillard and the Blazers were still seen as the better team when compared to their first-round opponents, the Denver Nuggets. Denver is and was without their second-best player, Jamal Murray, and the Blazers finally had a fully healthy roster in the playoffs. In possibly the most open Western Conference bracket in a decade, this seemed like it could be the year Portland broke through.
But alas, presumptive 2021 NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets triumphed in six games, and they will now take on the Phoenix Suns in a conference semifinal. They come into Game 1 of that series as juicy +160 NBA odds underdogs, a number that could prove to make that NBA pick one of the best bets for today.
The victory also sent a seething Lillard home in the first round for the fourth time in the past five seasons and fifth in the last seven. That kind of result is clearly no longer good enough: the 30-year-old Lillard is at a point in his career where it’s championship or bust.
Dame’s 55-point effort in a double-overtime Game 5 loss showed the vast chasm between how much he is willing to put in for this team to find success, and what his supporting cast is capable of contributing.
Lillard wrote a goodbye message not only to Stotts, but his whole coaching staff, which is a touch strange but not unprecedented for a player that is still looking to remain with the team.
In a statement, Portland president of basketball operations Neil Olshey also expressed his respect and gratitude for what Stotts had done for the team and city over his nearly decade-long tenure.
“I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons,” Olshey said. “This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it’s in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction.
“Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish him and Jan nothing but the best.”
Dame Time told the media that former superstar point guards turned assistant coaches Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups would be his ideal replacements for Stotts, who took over the Blazers the year they drafted Lillard in 2012.
Kidd has already pulled out of the running, stating that Lillard’s endorsement made him a bit uncomfortable. That means Dame’s top guy is Billups now, and some have said that he was the team’s preference anyway.
Stotts had led the Blazers on two trips to the conference semis as well as a Western Conference semifinal berth in 2019, in which they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. The native of Cedar Falls, Iowa signed an extension following that season but was relieved of his duties with one more guaranteed year left on the contract.
Apart from Billups, other potential candidates include Michigan University’s Juwan Howard, Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, and former Knicks and Rockets head coach and current ESPN color commentator Jeff Van Gundy, sources have shared.