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Headhunter's all ears

For GM search, Vulcan executive Tod Leiweke is listening
by: ERIKA SCHULTZ, Tod Leiweke (middle) celebrated the Seattle Seahawks’ Ring of Honor with team owner Paul Allen (left) and President of Operations Tim Ruskell. Now overseeing all of Allen’s sports-related properties, Leiweke is in charge of hiring new management for the Trail Blazers.

Tod Leiweke admits that hockey - the sport he played growing up in St. Louis - was his first sporting love.

His favorite now?

'It's a tie,' he says, adding football and basketball to the list.

Leiweke, 47, has served the last two years as chief executive officer of Paul Allen's Seattle Seahawks. As recently named CEO of Allen's Vulcan Sports and Entertainment, which will oversee all of Allen's sports-related properties, Leiweke is the man in charge of hiring a new president and general manager of the Trail Blazers.

The search is on, and Leiweke is careful in disseminating information about the two extremely important hires that will have a great deal to say about the future of Portland's NBA franchise.

Leiweke spent much of last week in New York, speaking with league officials - including Commissioner David Stern - about prospective candidates. He has spent much of this week in Portland, gathering opinions while beginning the process of interviews that will lead to the two hires.

'I committed to Mr. Allen that I was going to do some listening,' Leiweke says. 'I've been doing that. The answers will come if you're a good listener. You have to have some intuition about it, but it's also important to hear what people are saying - get their take on the situation, on what they think is right.'

Leiweke says he has known Stern 'for many years. He's cheering us on. He wants to make sure we get this right, too.'

There is no timetable for filling either position, Leiweke says.

'If it takes two weeks longer, a month longer, OK - we just want to land on the right solution,' he says. 'We're starting to talk to people. It won't take forever to do this. We'll be thoughtful, diligent and expeditious.'

Four years ago, when Steve Patterson and John Nash were hired as president and general manager, respectively, Allen used a job search firm from Ohio to help with his selections. Leiweke says it is unlikely the owner will use that approach this time.

Leiweke will gather opinions, interview a few candidates for both positions and forward his recommendations to Allen. But Leiweke says he will rely heavily on the opinions of others.

'A big decision like this doesn't get made by any one person,' he says. 'At the end of the day, it's Mr. Allen's team. I'll make a recommendation, but that will be made with a consensus. He and I have made quite a few decisions together (in Seattle). We're in good cadence relative to all the decisions we have made. We have a very good, constructive working relationship.'

Leiweke wouldn't say who else he will seek out for advice.

He's no Lone Ranger

'There are a lot of constituents I'll want to have feel good about this decision,' he says. 'I'll talk to people within the team, outside of the team. When you give people a chance to give feedback, they feel they're a stakeholder.

'I'll talk to people in this organization, in this community. We want the league to feel good about our decisions, too. We want momentum. To do that, I can't be the Lone Ranger.'

Patterson, who recently resigned both positions, oversaw every part of the organization. The new president probably will deal strictly with the business side, the general manager with basketball operations.

Will Leiweke fill one position before the other?

'No, I wouldn't say that,' he says. 'There's no real order.'

On March 1, the day Patterson resigned, Leiweke identified Kevin Pritchard, the team's director of player personnel, as a 'strong candidate' for the GM post. Leiweke says he will not mention the names of other candidates.

'We all felt it was important everybody knew (Pritchard) was an excellent candidate,' Leiweke says.

An ideal candidate would …

What is Leiweke looking for in the person who is hired as president?

'Connectivity to the community,' Leiweke says. 'That was a pedigree of this franchise. We're going to make sure we reconnect the team with the community in a big way. … Connectivity to the community was part of this franchise's DNA. That's a very important thing about the next leader.'

Qualities he seeks in the new GM?

'Somebody who can take this basketball program and make it one of the best in the NBA,' Leiweke says. 'Certainly, Mr. Allen has committed to that.'

One report said Geoff Petrie, Sacramento's president of basketball relations, has had a discussion with Portland officials about one of the vacant jobs.

'There's no truth to that at all,' says Petrie, who served as GM when the Blazers reached the NBA Finals in 1992. 'We haven't talked.'

Petrie, who has two years left on his contract in Sacramento, feels loyalty to King owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and is uncomfortable saying anything about a potential return to Portland.

Former King coach Rick Adelman, fired after eight straight playoff seasons in Sacramento and now living in Portland, doesn't feel the same way.

'Of course I'd be interested (in the GM post),' says Adelman, who played with Petrie on the first Blazer teams and coached the team to the NBA Finals in 1990 and '92. 'Why wouldn't I be? I don't know if I want to coach again, but I do know I want to live here, and I would love to work with the organization.

'I have a strong connection to the franchise. I love what (coach) Nate McMillan is doing with their young players. I've been around this league a long time and know what it takes to put together a winning team. The challenge of that job would appeal to me, and I think I could help.'

Another potential candidate:Blazer scout John Gabriel, said to be instrumental in constructing the team's 2006 draft class.

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