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Harry Glickman

THE RAIN COAT

Here's the story about how the Blazers almost never came to be. In January of 1970, the NBA expansion committee, meeting in Philadelphia, raised the franchise price to $3.7 million, causing a group of 10 local investors to back out, thus leaving Blazers Founder and President Emeritus, Harry Glickman all alone with no financial support to make it happen. Once back in Portland, Harry got a call from Seattle SuperSonics General Manager Dick Vertlieb, who said he knew a guy who might be interested in staking an NBA franchise. That guy was Herman Sarkowsky, a Seattle home builder and, ironically, Glickman's wife's ex-brother-in-law. When the two met later, Sarkowsky made it clear he was not interested in sharing the ownership with the 10 Portland investors, but that he would be willing to put up all the money if he could interest two other developer friends, Larry Weinberg of Los Angeles and Robert Schmertz of New Jersey, to join him.

When the league's Feb. 4, 1970 deadline to select its new teams rolled around, Glickman still hadn't heard from Sarkowsky. So, armed only with a scheme to persuade the league's Board of Governors to accept Portland, a desperate, yet still optimistic Glickman went to Los Angeles, with hope that a good-faith offer would work. However, once in the hotel room of Abe Pollin, owner of the Baltimore Bullets and chairman of the expansion committee, the mood changed. A few members of the expansion committee, led by Ned Irish, founder of the New York Knicks and promoter of events at Madison Square Garden, didn't want Portland in the league. "How can I, owner of the world champion New York Knicks, put the name Portland on the marquee of Madison Square Garden?" Irish asked his fellow owners.

So Glickman left the room dejected. As he reached the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, with the distinct feeling that his NBA dream had failed, he remembered he had left his raincoat, a useless garment in sunny LA, back in Pollin's room. "When I got there," Harry recalls, "Pollin was on the phone: 'Harry, it's for you ... some guy named Sarkowsky is on the line.' " That was destiny calling.

Sarkowsky told Harry he had reached Weinberg, who was eager to buy into an NBA franchise and that he finally had gotten in touch with Schmertz. "Schmertz is in, we're set," Sarkowsky said.

So the birth of the Trail Blazers came down to the fact that in February, a raincoat is an essential accessory in water-soaked Oregon, but a useless garment in generally warm and dry LA. That Harry Glickman forgot it on his way out of town is clearly, in the telling of stories, where fate intervened and destiny began for the Trail Blazers.