Part of the trick to understanding the universe is to see something seemingly stupid, strange or inexcusable, and asking oneself, "Now who would think this was a good idea, and what would make them think it?" It's called "Hawking's Third Theory of Stuff He Doesn't Give A Damn About," and it often helps to comprehend the incomprehensible.
Say, like Paul Allen firing Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard an hour before the NBA Draft and then having him run the draft while looking for a cardboard box to put his personal effects in on his way out the door.
|Paul Allen and Kevin Pritchard's relationship ended in strange fashion. (AP)|
According to Comrade Berger, who found it from the estimable Jason Quick at the Oregonian, it began as an issue over credit. The amount that Pritchard was getting, and the amount that Allen therefore was not. And then it somehow morphed into a hundred other things -- how much Pritchard was being paid, how much control he had, the general cut of his jib, all that.
But it all apparently began with a personality clash between Pritchard and Allen (if Quick is to be believed, and well, why not?) which leads us back to Hawking's Third Theory.
The who is Allen, clearly, since he is the one who did the firing. The why is fascinating.
By all accounts, Pritchard was a terrific general manager. He oversaw the resuscitation of a franchise that had no competition and still was losing the civic support after the mega-disastrous Bob Whitsitt era. Pritchard drafted well, assembled a roster well, and assembled a team that did the deportment-sensitive Portland fan base well.
And people said so. A lot. Apparently too much, if Quick is on his job (and again, assuming he is on his job is a typically safe play).
Thus, we now have the who, and we're pretty sure we have the why, and the why is pretty stupid.
Credit is a highly underrated motive for absurd behavior, and becoming more prevalent as teams become more expensive to own. Owners buy them on a whim and love the adrenalin that comes from being worshiped as a savior when they first buy them. It is the new-car smell of ownership, and it lasts all too briefly.
Thus, as in the case with the Trail Blazers, things go bad and then suddenly go good again, the owner wants that new-car smell in his nostrils again, and he doesn't get it, because the guy he brought in to fix what went wrong is clearly the catalyst for that fix, and he gets the new-car smell instead, and the owner becomes resentful.
Well, the smart owner doesn't, but sports is already running low on billionaires of any kind, so smart billionaires really are rare.
Owners only come out of these purchases with good self-esteem if they understand that they're in it for the money and for the fun, and that the sooner they understand that the credit is a false reward better left to the underlings, the better off they'll be.
And why? Because today's credit becomes tomorrow's blame, and owners more than any other people believe in the immortal words of Jack Woltz, the studio head in The Godfather: "A man in my position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous."
But Paul Allen does, apparently because he didn't look good enough in the renaissance.
Or maybe there's another reason we don't know about (always a possibility), something more fundamental and damaging to Pritchard, to which we would suggest that something so bad should always be dealt with immediately. As in, when Allen stopped wanting Pritchard to be near him late in the season. If the issue was that serious, Pritchard should have been fired on the spot.
If not, well, why would you mess with success? Hawking's Third Theory, apparently.
Either way, Pritchard got canned, ran the draft, the Blazers did well, and he left the building without talking to anyone, serving Allen far better than Allen served him. Hell, if I were Pritchard, I would have drafted Pauley Perrette and headed off to a bar, drank like four condemned men and watch Allen beg David Stern for a do-over.
But Pritchard is a better person than I, which means if nothing else that he deserved better than what he got Thursday.
Besides, Perrette looks like she could give the Blazers a good 16 minutes off the bench as a really effective four. Right now, most people who watch what the Blazers just did would say, "If Pritchard drafted the woman, he must have seen something in her. I mean, she's only 41, and the Celtics have three people older than her."
See, you don't have to seek out credit. Credit seeks you. A lesson Paul Allen can learn at his leisure while he wrestles unconvincingly with Hawking's Third Theory.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle