Blazers turn to Pritchard

Portland names ex-Jayhawk interim coach

Thursday, March 3, 2005

— Kevin Pritchard, who played on Kansas University's 1988 national championship team, on Wednesday was named interim head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Maurice Cheeks was fired Wednesday morning, after the Blazers had lost seven of their last nine and tumbled to 22-33.

With Portland's chances of making the playoffs dwindling, the Blazers promoted Pritchard, the team's director of player personnel.

Pritchard, hired by the Blazers in August after serving as a scout for the San Antonio Spurs, was asked if he thought the role as interim coach was an audition.

"This is not the role and not the career path I want to take," Pritchard said. "That said, I would do anything to help this organization."

Pritchard, 37, who played at Kansas 1986-90, spent four seasons in the NBA. Before joining the Spurs organization, he served as coach, general manager and director of player personnel for the Kansas City Knights of the American Basketball Assn.

"It's a sad day for me because I've got guys on my team that I really ... ," said Cheeks, his voice trailing off in disappointment during an emotional news conference a few hours after he was let go. "I didn't do as well a job as I could have, as I did in previous years," he concluded.

"Our players liked Mo a great deal, but sometimes a fresh voice might ignite them to go in a different direction," Blazers general manager John Nash said.

While the Blazers are not entirely giving up on the playoffs, Pritchard's appointment shows the team is going to focus on evaluating younger players.

"I'm not going to mislead anybody. It's a long, uphill battle to get to the playoffs from where we're at -- 11 games under .500," Blazers president Steve Patterson said.