PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The 15th head coach in Trail Blazers’ history is former NBA Champion Chauncey Billups and some in Rip City are finding it hard to accept the five-time All-Star as the leader of the Portland franchise after a rape allegation towards Billups 25-years ago when he was a rookie with the Boston Celtics. While criminal charges were never filed, Billups settled the civil case in 2000.
A new coach but far from a clean slate, the introduction of the 44-year-old first-time NBA head coach comes with some scrutiny that is beyond x’s and o’s. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how every decision that we make has a profound impact on a person’s life. Every decision has consequences and that has led to some really, really healthy but tough conversations that I have had to have with my wife who was my girlfriend at the time in 1997 and my daughters about what actually happened,” Billups said.
He was up front about his past in facing the gathered in-person media for his first day in Rip City with his wife and three daughters in attendance. “This experience has shaped my life in so many different ways. My decision making, obviously, who I allow to be in my life, the friendships and the relationships that I have and how I can go about them. It’s impacted every decision that I make, it really has. It has shaped me in some unbelievable ways,” Billups added.
General Manager Neil Olshey said the Trail Blazers vetted Billups through their own independent investigation. “The results of that corroborate everything that Chauncey had told us multiple times through multiple interviews that nothing non-consensual happened and nothing would disqualify him from employment. We stand by Chauncey,” Olshey said.
After one season on the job as an assistant coach with the Clippers, ‘Mr. Big Shot’ is getting his first head coaching shot in the NBA, a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth. “We didn’t hire the most experienced coach, but we think we hired the coach with the highest ceiling for this organization and we’d like to realize the benefit of that down the road,” Olshey added.
Billups concluded his 17-year playing career in 2014, a world champ who also was honored over the years with the NBA’s citizenship award, sportsmanship honor and voted as the best teammate in the league, just like his friend and now player, Damian Lillard was the past season. After four first round playoff exits in the last five years, Dame wants better and it starts at the top.
“Dame’s happiness always revolves around winning and having a chance to win at the highest level. I told Dame, look, if you gotta drive my butt every day to make sure we’re out on a limb, we’re taking risks, we’re doing everything we can to build a roster that you feel and the rest of the guys on team feel can walk in with a swagger knowing the roster is not going to be why they can’t compete for a championship, that’s on me.”
Billups made the quick trip to Portland and is now headed back to LA to rejoin his Clippers for game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Suns on Wednesday night.