PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers fired general manager Kevin Pritchard less than an hour before the start of Thursday's NBA draft, according to The Oregonian newspaper.
Pritchard did not immediately respond to a phone message, and the Blazers did not comment.
According to the report on the Oregonian's website, Pritchard remained part of the group conducting Portland's draft. The Blazers had the 22nd and 34th selections.
The reported firing ended months of speculation that Pritchard had fallen out of favor with billionaire Blazers owner Paul Allen. Pritchard said last week he understood that a search firm had been hired to find his replacement but vowed to fight for his job.
Pritchard was under contract through next season with a team option for 2011-12.
One of his rumored replacements, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, recently denied that he had been contacted about the job.
Pritchard joined the Blazers as director of player personnel earlier this decade and briefly served as interim head coach after the Blazers fired coach Maurice Cheeks in 2005.
He was promoted as general manager in 2007 and charged with rescuing the Blazers from their "Jail Blazers" reputation as a team of malcontents who couldn't manage to stay out of trouble.
Pritchard built a promising young team around guard Brandon Roy, who was named the league's rookie of the year before becoming a three-time All-Star. Pritchard was also a staunch supporter of 7-foot center Greg Oden, the top pick in the 2007 draft who has been plagued by injuries.
Pritchard appeared to have the support of Portland's fan base. Several online petitions backing him surfaced when the rumors about his uncertain future began to swirl in late March, after the Blazers abruptly fired Tom Penn, Portland's vice president of basketball operations.
Penn was widely considered a salary cap specialist and key to many of Pritchard's past player moves.
The Blazers said only that Penn was dismissed for "philosophical differences." But Warren LeGarie, who represents Pritchard and Penn, made comments to several reporters suggesting Penn's firing was a message to Pritchard.
At the time Allen issued a statement in support of Pritchard but added his performance would be evaluated at the end of the season.
Allen has not addressed the matter publicly since then and did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday night.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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