Building the Rip City Remix
How the Trail Blazers assembled a front office, coaching staff and roster from scratch for the franchise's new G League team.
Starting a professional sports franchise from scratch is a daunting task, and the Trail Blazers were on an accelerated timeline.
Since he took over as general manager in 2021, Joe Cronin had wanted a G League team. The Blazers were one of two teams that didn't have an affiliate in the NBA's minor league, and it was putting them at a disadvantage in player development.
In recent years, the G League has become a more important part of the NBA ecosystem than it's ever been. The introduction of two-way contracts in 2017 has led to more G League players making it to, and sticking in, the NBA. Top high-school prospects (including the Blazers' own prized rookie, Scoot Henderson) have started bypassing college for the G League's Ignite team. Not having their own affiliate made it too much of a hassle for the Blazers to get their young players valuable minutes.
"You're sending them to a different organization," says assistant general manager Mike Schmitz. "How are you doing all the travel? How long will they be there? You're having daily conversations with the coach, who's not a part of your organization. There's a lot of hoops to jump through, and your guys aren't getting development. We had guys on two-ways who didn't play a minute, because we didn't have a G League team."
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In his first year on the job, Cronin worked with the NBA league office and G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim on figuring out a way to make it happen. Getting a G League team was never a priority for the previous front-office regime, and Cronin felt it was too important to wait any longer. With blessing and financial backing from Blazers owner Jody Allen, he and the league set about figuring out timing and logistics, eventually settling on the University of Portland's Chiles Center as a home arena and the Blazers' own practice facility in Tualatin as a headquarters.
These plans were finalized in April, with training camp set to begin in October. The marketing team's choice of name, the Rip City Remix, has been met with universal acclaim. But the basketball operations department had just a few months after that to assemble a front office, coaching staff and roster for a franchise that didn't exist at the beginning of the year.
The story of how it all happened involves a lot of moving parts, some lucky breaks and connections, and work that would normally take over a year crammed into one summer.