The Portland Trail Blazers and head coach Terry Stotts have mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons, the team announced Friday night. Chauncey Billups, Juwan Howard, Mike D'Antoni and Jeff Van Gundy are expected to be candidates to replace him, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Blazers lost their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets despite Denver being without three of its top five guards: Jamal Murray, P.J. Dozier and Will Barton. The Blazers led Game 6 at home by 14 points before blowing the lead in the final two quarters. They lost Game 5 despite 55 points from star point guard Damian Lillard.
"I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons," Blazers team president Neil Olshey said in a statement. "This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it's in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction. Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish he and Jan nothing but the best."
Such has sadly become the norm in Portland. The Blazers have lost in the first round in four of the past five seasons. The lone exception was a 2019 trip to the Western Conference finals predicated on a favorable bracket. The two top teams in the Western Conference that year, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, met in the second round, paving the path for Portland to reach the conference finals, but get swept there by Golden State.
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Aside from that run, Portland won only two postseason series in Stotts' nine years at the helm. The Blazers went 402-318 in that span, typically buoyed by an elite offense led at first by LaMarcus Aldridge and later, by Lillard. Where Portland tended to struggle was on defense. This season, Portland finished 29th on that end of the floor. They finished better than league average only twice in Stotts' tenure.
Now the Blazers will seek a new coach for a critical point in franchise history. Lillard will turn 31 this month. CJ McCollum will hit his 30s before next season. Portland is running out of time to build a contender around this core of players. They will have to nail this hire if they ever plan to do so.