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Portland Trail Blazers fire their general manager after reports of a toxic workplace

The Portland Trail Blazers fired Neil Olshey on Friday, after workers reportedly accused him of creating a hostile work environment. He's seen here sitting near Damian Lillard in 2019.
Steve Dykes
/
Getty Images
The Portland Trail Blazers fired Neil Olshey on Friday, after workers reportedly accused him of creating a hostile work environment. He's seen here sitting near Damian Lillard in 2019.

The Portland Trail Blazers have fired Neil Olshey as their general manager, a dismissal that takes effect immediately. Olshey had been under investigation after workers reportedly accused him of creating a hostile work environment.

The Blazers said Olshey violated their code of conduct, in a brief statement the team issued on Friday.

The NBA team didn't provide details of Olshey's misdeeds, stating, "Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it."

One month ago, the Blazers announced that it had hired the O'Melveny & Myers law firm to look into complaints about the workplace environment at a practice facility — allegations that it said came from "non-player personnel."

Employees described "a toxic, hostile work environment where staff members have been subjected to intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics," Yahoo! Sports reported.

As news of the inquiry spread, a number of people spoke out against Olshey, including a former assistant coach who said he attempted to warn the Blazers not to put Olshey in the top job. Barry Hecker had worked with Olshey in the Los Angeles Clippers franchise.

"One, I don't think he was qualified for the job," said Hecker, in an interview with The Oregonian's John Canzano. "Two, he has no idea how to treat people. He's an arrogant SOB. His ego gets in the way of everything and he's just a bad human being."

Olshey, 56, was fired after starting his tenth season as the Blazers' general manager. In 2015, he was promoted to also serve as the president of basketball operations.

In another interview, former Trail Blazers guard Dan Dickau told Canzano that Olshey had berated him for attempting to explore opportunities with the club's business operations unit.

At the time, Dickau was a fledgling coach who had recently quit playing and hoped to work for the Blazers in player development or the team's front office.

"Two days later, Neil Olshey calls me on the phone out of the blue and just rips me a new one," Dickau said. "I mean, I don't know how many f-bombs were dropped in that phone call."

The question he thought about after that phone call, Dickau said, was "What in the world is going on here?"

Shortly after the investigation into Olshey was launched, Chris McGowan announced he was resigning as the Trail Blazers' president and CEO.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.