Sports

Decatur grad Rich Cho hired as Portland Trail Blazers' general manager

Decatur High School graduate Rich Cho, 44, was hired as the Portland Trail Blazers
Decatur High School graduate Rich Cho, 44, was hired as the Portland Trail Blazers' general manager Monday. Cho spent nine years as the assistant GM for the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma Thunder.
— image credit: Courtesy Portland Trail Blazers

Rich Cho had always hoped to run his hometown National Basketball Association franchise.

The 1983 Decatur High School graduate spent seven seasons as the assistant general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics before everything changed two years ago. That’s when the Sonics made the move to Oklahoma City.

Cho, 44, stuck with the franchise and spent the last two seasons working for the Thunder in Oklahoma. But Cho is now back in the Pacific Northwest after being hired Monday as the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. He replaces Kevin Pritchard, who was fired last month hours before the NBA Draft.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and I will do everything I can to help this great team get even better,” said Cho in a statement. “As someone who grew up in the Northwest, I’m aware of the unbelievable passion and support that Trail Blazers’ fans have, and I’m excited to be a part of this rich tradition.”

Cho becomes the ninth general manager in Trail Blazers’ history and ends his relationship with the Sonics/Thunder franchise, which started in 1995 as a summer intern.

After graduating from Decatur, Cho went on to Washington State University, earning his degree in 1989 from Pullman. Cho then started working as an engineer at Boeing, where he spent five years.

But he still had the goal of working in sports. Cho did some research and found that a lot of sports agents and people in front offices of most professional sports organizations have law degrees. So he enrolled in law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., in 1994.

While at school, he sent a resumé to the Sonics that resulted in a summer internship. He interned again during the summer of 1996, then did part-time work for the Sonics after graduating in 1997.

He was promoted to assistant general manager of the Sonics in 2001, and served in that role until he was hired by Blazers’ owner Paul Allen Monday to take over a franchise that finished 50-32 during the 2009-10 regular season. Cho interviewed with Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, last week in Helsinki, Finland.

“Rich Cho joins us as one of the new generation of general managers in the NBA,” Allen said in a statement. “We were all impressed with the depth and breadth of his skill-set and we know his leadership will be a critical to make our great organization even more successful. I really enjoyed meeting with him and discussing what he could bring to the Blazers to make that happen.”

The Blazers and Allen also considered former Cleveland Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry and former Miami Heat GM Randy Pfund before hiring Cho.

The Trail Blazers’ roster currently includes Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, among others.

“When I met with Mr. Allen, (team president) Larry Miller, and Coach (Nate) McMillan, it was immediately apparent to me that this organization has an incredible commitment to winning,” Cho said.

During his tenure with the Sonics and Thunder, Cho’s main responsibilities included assisting the GM in player contract negotiations, drafting all player contracts, handling anything related to the salary cap and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and working closely with college scouts. He also dealt a lot with both the NBA legal department and player agents.

“Rich is the perfect fit for our organization,” Miller said in a statement. “He has the right balance of basketball knowledge, business acumen and tremendous people skills. Everyone I spoke to about Rich commented not just on his qualifications but on who he is as a person. He is well known for his ability to connect genuinely with people. Rich will be a great fit for our organization and for Portland. He is an executive on the rise and we’re thrilled to have him as a Trail Blazer.”

McMillan said he got to know Cho when both of them were in Seattle.

“He works 24/7,” McMillan said. “He’s intelligent, soft-spoken, a family guy. He has been the most sought after NBA executive over the past couple of years. He can get deals done and make things happen.”

Cho is the second Federal Way district graduate to be the general manager of a Northwest professional franchise. Federal Way High School grad Bob Ferguson served as the GM of the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-05.

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