He was the owner of the Trail Blazers and Seahawks.
He was the co-founder of Microsoft.
He was a humanitarian and philanthropist.
But for the late Paul Allen, one of the biggest joys in his life was being a part of the NBA Draft process in Portland.
For recent Portland Trail Blazers fans, they will remember the Blazers late owner sitting on the baseline near the Blazers bench at Moda Center with his pinwheel baseball cap propped atop his head.
What fans may not remember is Mr. Allen sitting in the Blazers draft room each and every year, deliberating over every possible scenario, constantly trying to help build for the future of the team.
Allen passed away from cancer on October 15th, 2018 at the age of 65. Just three days before his team tipped off the regular season at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.
June 20th, 2019 marked the first NBA Draft with no Paul Allen in Portland’s ‘war room’ in over 30 years.
After the Trail Blazers selection was locked in at No. 25 with Nassir Little out of North Carolina, Portland’s General Manger Neil Olshey spoke with the local media.
Olshey spoke on the emotions of a draft day without Allen.
“It’s hard. Look, as ecstatic as he would’ve been sitting courtside with us going to the Western Conference Finals and seeing that plan that was put in place four years ago when we kind of reset the roster, nothing made him happier than being in this room tonight,” Olshey said with a smile.
Allen was known for watching plenty of game film and diligently doing his homework on potential prospects. He was all about making sure to draft the right player.
Olshey couldn’t help but think about how different this draft was in comparison to previous “energetic” Paul Allen infused drafts.
“It really was a different experience for us today without Paul [saying] ‘can we get him? Oh get him! Move up! Can we buy a second [round pick]? Go ahead buy a second, give them $4 million, give them $5 million,’ and no matter what the plan was going in, Paul always said he was an ‘all of the above’ guy. ”
Paul’s sister, Jody Allen, who now owns the Trail Blazers, was kept up-to-date on this year’s draft prospects and the Blazers draft board of whom they liked in this year’s class.
“We sent our stuff to Jody last night and said this our order, this is how we’re going to go, we’re locked in at 25 if we don’t make a move and we played it by that script,” Olshey said.
But draft day definitely was not the same for Olshey and his staff because there was no Paul Allen going through his typical draft day routine.
“Paul would come, he’d stop at the Pancake House and he’d have his pancakes and apple fritter, and he’d get here around 10am. We’d find a bunch of guys to get in the room, we’d sit here and watch film with him. He loved watching tape,” Olshey said.
“Then he would get bored with us and he’d shoot off to Powell’s [Bookstore] for a couple of hours. He had his routine and it was just fun and it kept us engaged,” Olshey added.
Allen purchased the Trail Blazers in 1988. He was just 35 years old. He became the youngest team owner in the four major professional sports leagues.
Allen’s had been enjoying the draft process ever since.
Olshey and his staff definitely felt Allen’s absence.
“It was different and I think everybody in the room felt a huge void. It just didn’t have the same energy,” Olshey said.
Allen’s energy was missing.
“You spend two months working on it after the season and you’re battling and you’re grinding out the board and you’re watching tape… After all, you do your board, right? And then there was always this infusion of energy when Paul came in and you had to almost start from scratch because he liked the action,” Olshey said.
Olshey summed it up simply with, “It just sucks, the way things have gone over the last nine months [getting to the Western Conference Finals], he deserved [to see] that.”
In the end, this 2019 draft ended with Portland snagging a projected lottery pick at No. 25.
There’s no doubt Mr. Allen would be pleased.