Billups Introduced As The 15th Head Coach In Franchise History

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

Less than a month after parting ways with Terry Stotts after nine seasons, Neil Olshey and the Portland Trail Blazers announced the hiring of Chauncey Billups to be the team’s head coach during a press conference at the team’s practice facility Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a bit day for all of us in Portland and with the Trail Blazers,” said president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. “Following an expansive, throughout and equitable search -- we started with over 20 candidates, they were all really talented -- we’re thrilled to announce that Chauncey is going to be the new head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.”

Billups, who played 17 season in the NBA and is still in the process of finishing out his first season as an assistant coach with the L.A. Clippers, signed a five-year deal with the Trail Blazers to be the 15th head coach in franchise history. For Billups, now a first-time head coach in the NBA, the opportunity is a chance to live out one of his dreams.

“I’m really excited. Portland is a special place, it’s a unique franchise. Played against them for so long, I’m happy to be on the other side with these great fans and also happy to be a part of Rip City and the sponsors, looking forward to joining all of them.

“I’m just going to be me at all times and it’s always worked for me in my life. I’m comfortable with who I am, my passion for the game, my passion to win, my passion to lead and compete. It seems to me that’s what this fanbase is all about. Came here playing against the Blazers for many, many years and had some long, long nights in that building based on not only personnel, but just how great the fanbase was or is.”

While the Trail Blazers made the playoffs the last eight seasons under Stotts, the team had seemed to plateaued, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where they ranked 29th during the 2020-21 season. In hiring Billups, the team is hoping they are able to achieve a significant level of improvement through coaching, an important task when considering they have limited options for bringing in new players.

“I guess improvement that we can make as a team is on the defensive end of the floor,” said Billups. “Offensively, you have some gifted players and they’ve already performed at a really high level on the offensive end. I think on the defensive end is where we take the next step, just having a defensive mindset, a defensive mentality, just to compete every single day and to be physical and to communicate, things like that. You can have different schemes and principles, but at the end of the day, if you don’t compete and invest in that side of the ball, you’re probably going to underachieve there. And I think that’s our first jump as we start talking about how we can improve there.”

But while much of the press conference had to do with the Trail Blazers’ immediate future, there were also a number of questions about Billups’ past, specifically, the allegation that he, along with others, committed sexual assault against a woman during his rookie season with the Celtics. No criminal charges were filed, though a civil case was settled out of court.

Olshey discussed the team’s vetting process prior to taking questions in general terms before Billups discussed the subject.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how every decision that we make could have a profound impact on a a person’s life. I learned at a very young age as a player -- and not only a player, but a young man, a young adult -- that every decision has consequences, and that’s led to some really, really healthy but tough conversations that I’ve had to have with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time in 1997, and my daughters about what actually happened and what they may have to read about me in the news and in the media. This experience has shaped my life in so many different ways. My decision-making, obviously, who I allow to be in my life, the friend ships and the relationships that I have and how I go about them. It’s impacted every decision that I make.”

Despite having to answer some difficult questions in his first official day on the job, Billups was still enthusiastic about the opportunity to lead the Trail Blazers.

"Today is a great day for me and my family," Billups said. "It really is. This is my dream job. We knew we would have to address (the allegations), but this is my dream job. This is one of the best days of my entire life."

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