When I first heard the news last week, I was tempted to call The Seattle Times and ask if they'd like to borrow a headline from the cover of the May 9, 2003, Portland Tribune.
'Buh-Bye,' it said in big letters.
It was above my column, heralding the news that Bob Whitsitt had finally departed the Blazers. And there was no attempt to hide the joy of seeing that guy in this town's rearview mirror. Of course, Whitsitt lives in Seattle, and I didn't expect his firing by Paul Allen and the Seahawks to meet with the same elation.
But it should have.
Les Carpenter, who writes for The Seattle Times, did a scathing piece Sunday on Whitsitt's destruction of the Seahawks. It contained several anecdotes that reveal so much about the arrogance of a man who helped the Blazers go from a model franchise to a total mess.
'Whitsitt was overseeing a meeting to discuss possible ways of marketing a charter-seat package for the new stadium,' Carpenter wrote. 'A package that at $72 a seat plus a fee in the thousands of dollars must have seemed like a pyramid scheme.
'At some point, someone suggested they could put a purchaser's name on a bronze plate that would be attached to the seat, perhaps as a token of appreciation.
As the story goes, Whitsitt snorted.
' 'Yeah,' he reportedly said, 'They could write 'suckers' on it.' '
Perfect. That's Whitsitt. Portland fans were always suckers or fools to him Ñ willing to buy any sort of hoodlum player as long as the team was winning.
The Times' story told of how he tore pictures of previous coaches and players off the walls Ñ just as he did in Portland Ñ demeaning the team's history before his reign. His relationships with coaches Dennis Erickson and Mike Holmgren were notoriously terrible. When I'd mention Whitsitt to Erickson, he'd get so mad he couldn't speak.
And yet some people on the inside, whose voices may not have gotten a proper airing when Whitsitt left, said, 'Yeah, he was bad Ñ but he was just following instructions from the owner.'
I'm not willing to cut Whitsitt any slack. He made some awful decisions, and his arrogance, on a personal level, was unbearable. At the same time, how many bad decisions might have been ordered by Allen? How much heat did Whitsitt take as a human shield for his owner? Just exactly how much does Allen meddle?
Someone asked me the other day what I thought had to be done for the Blazers to regain their stature in Portland. It didn't take me long to come up with an answer:
Whitsitt leaving here wasn't enough. Allen has to sell the team. Really. Preferably to a group of Portlanders. It may be the only way to erase the bad decisions that have been made.
But now that Allen has given up ownership of the Rose Garden, I'm not even sure he could find anyone willing to buy the team. The franchise has been devalued more than a Jason Giambi baseball card.
I think we'll save that 'Buh-bye' headline for another day.