Neil Olshey Fired as Blazers GM After Probe into Bullying, Intimidation Allegations

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 3, 2021

PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 06: Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Oshley looks on during a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs at Moda Center on February 06, 2020 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 Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
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The Portland Trail Blazers announced general manager Neil Olshey has been fired following an independent investigation into allegations he created a toxic workplace culture.

Per a statement released by the team, Olshey was fired "due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers' Code of Conduct."

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Portland's statement also noted its investigation into Olshey's bullying allegations is complete, but the organization won't publicly release the findings "out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation." 

The Blazers hired the O'Melveny & Myers law firm in November to investigate allegations Olshey used "bullying tactics," including intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, that created a hostile environment for employees, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.

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Members of the organization said the general manager's actions led to "mental and physical stress," and some also questioned whether enough action was taken following the death of former video coordinator and player development coach Zach Cooper in April 2020, according to Haynes.

Cooper died "unexpectedly" at the age of 32, but further details weren't released.

"This is a heartbreaking loss for the entire Trail Blazers family," Olshey said at the time. "Zach was a positive spirit, a tireless worker and an outstanding teacher. My prayers go out to his family and all who loved him."

Olshey with hired as Portland's general manager in 2012. He'd previously spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers in various roles, including assistant coach and assistant GM.

In 2017, John Canzano of The Oregonian wrote a column saying the culture within the Blazers organization was "busted," and he suggested the team should speak with "ushers, security staff and ball boys" as part of the exit-interview process.

"The Blazers have a line of decent, hard-working employees. But they work under heavy-handed guidelines and directives," Canzano wrote. "They play scared. The whole operation feels paranoid and clouded by the sticky culture of Vulcan, Inc."

Olshey downplayed the those critiques as the club's 2016-17 season came to a close.

"I'm very comfortable with where our culture is," the GM told reporters. "You guys know how close [the team] is, how they feel about the coaching staff, the support that they get from the organization. They know we have their best interest at heart."

Olshey, who also served as president of basketball operations, was signed to a five-year contract extension in May 2019.