The Portland Trail Blazers have made Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups the 15th head coach in the franchise's history, the team announced Sunday. The length of the deal is five years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Billups' Clippers are still alive in the playoffs, but currently trail the Phoenix Suns 3-1 in the Western Conference finals.
"Chauncey is a proven leader with an elite basketball IQ that has won everywhere he has been," said Blazers team president Neil Olshey. "He is prepared for the challenge of developing the Championship habits and strategic approach we need to achieve the expectations and goals for our franchise."
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Blazers star Damian Lillard publicly endorsed both Billups and Jason Kidd for the job after Terry Stotts was fired, telling Charania and Jason Quick "I like J. Kidd and Chauncey." Kidd removed his name from consideration, though, and ultimately landed the Dallas Mavericks job. Billups remained in the hunt and has now secured the position. He has never been an NBA head coach before, but he has been sought after for quite some time.
"I'm very excited and humbled to be the next coach of the Trail Blazers," Billups said. "Portland is a special place and a unique franchise. As a player I always loved playing here because the passion and knowledge of the fans brought out the very best in me as a competitor. Now I'm looking forward to being on the other side of that energy and engaging with the Portland community on a whole other level.
"I want to thank Jody Allen, Bert Kolde and Neil Olshey for their trust and for giving me this incredible opportunity," continued Billups. "And, most importantly, I want to say to the fans that I know what this team means to you, and I promise to pour every ounce into continuing to make you proud of what the Trail Blazers stand for."
Billups has a unique perspective as a player who started his career as a journeyman but eventually grew into a star. He played for four franchises before ultimately landing in Detroit and winning Finals MVP in 2004. He has since worked as a broadcaster for ESPN while being courted for multiple jobs, including Cleveland's president of basketball operations position. He interviewed with the Indiana Pacers last offseason for their head coaching job, but that position ultimately went to Nate Bjorkgren.
Billups will have his work cut out for him in a delicate Portland situation. The Blazers have lost in the first round in four of the past five postseasons, and general manager Neil Olshey has indicated that he doesn't expect significant turnover on a roster that just finished 29th in defense. Lillard is 30, and even if he endorses the Billups hire, it should be noted that he has never reached the Finals and does not appear particularly close to doing so at the moment. He has never indicated that he wants to leave Portland, but NBA history suggests that enough years without true title contention tends to sway most superstars. Billups might be Portland's best chance at avoiding that fate.