I’ve been hearing Portland GM Kevin Pritchard’s name bandied about for some time now, thanks to his immense good fortune in having to decide between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant come Thursday of this week. It feels very, very strange to me to hear his name so often, because for the last 15 years or so, if I had mentioned him to just about any sports fan I know, I would have received a blank stare in response. I felt like a fan club of one.
Why do I love Kevin Pritchard? Easy answer – I was a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1988, and he was a key player on that famous Danny and the Miracles team that won the championship and turned Lawrence, Kansas upside down for several days. Since that team changed my life, I remember all kinds of absurd things about it. For instance, backup guard Clint Normore, who played crucial minutes in that game, was a varsity
linebacker defensive player for KU’s gridiron team. Compared to that bit of ephemera, remembering Kevin Pritchard is easy. He went 6 of 7 from the floor and scored 13 that night, one off his jersey number.
Pritchard also made one of the finest hustle plays I’ve ever seen in person. Back in those days, I couldn’t afford to go to many live KU games, but I often picked off undesirable tickets from my friends who were going home for winter break. One such event was a dismal Arizona State at Kansas game that was relatively meaningless. It was Pritchard’s senior season, if I remember correctly, and the Jayhawks were not having a difficult time with the Sun Devils. Nonetheless, when a maroon-and-gold clad guard stole the ball from Kansas and streaked away for the easy layup, Pritchard chased him down and blocked the kid’s shot cleanly from behind. The moral of the story? Don’t sleep on Kevin Pritchard. In addition to being a damn fine player, he made the Big 8 all-academic team for three years running.
Pritchard’s post-Kansas career was nothing to write home about. He was the 34th pick in the 1990 NBA draft, going to Golden State, where he started once. It was the only start of his NBA career. He played a few games over the next handful of seasons before moving to the now-defunct CBA, and then went overseas. When playing opportunities dried up, Pritchard sold mutual funds for about a year, before landing a front-office gig with the ABA’s Kansas City Knights, where he wore many hats, including GM, Director of Player Personnel, and Head Coach. He won an ABA championship in those roles in 2000-2001.
That was his entree back into the NBA ranks, as he joined the staff of the San Antonio Spurs. As a scout, he once again worked with Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, who knew Kevin from their days as assistants on Larry Brown’s staff at KU. Two years with the Spurs led to the Director of Player Personnel job with Portland, which led to the Assistant GM spot, and then to the enviable position he is in today.
Oddly enough, he is not the only player from that 1988 Kansas team to find success in a suit. Milt “Alfreeka” Newton is VP of Player Personnel for the Wizards. The small matter of a long NBA career got Danny Manning a late start, but he currently serves as an assistant coach at his alma mater under Bill Self.
Can Pritchard bring that Miracle magic to the rainy Pacific coast? Who knows. Luck has already played its role for Pritchard, handing him the #1 pick and two franchise players to choose from. The rest will come down to the same thing it always has for the kid from Tulsa – hard work.
Crucial Source: Groomed for Success [Portland Tribune]