PORTLAND, Ore. — While Masai Urjiri of Nigeria is a pie-in-the-sky pick to next run the Knicks, there are other presidential options if Steve Mills is bounced after the season.
In fact, owner James Dolan may look at someone with strong New York roots who’s had loads of success on the West Coast.
His name is Neil Olshey, the former Clippers executive who has had a solid run with the Trail Blazers for the past seven seasons. He is from Flushing, attended Xavier High School in Manhattan and Le Moyne College in Syracuse.
Tuesday, Raptors part-owner Larry Tanenbaum threw cold water on the Knicks’ rumors, denying Ujiri turned down a recent extension offer to keep his options open.
“We haven’t talked [about an extension] at this point in time, but if you ask him, his intentions are pretty clear,” Tanenbaum said. “Masai has a contract that goes for another two years — this season and next season — so there’s really no need at this point [to re-sign him]. … But no team can come to talk to him. That’s tampering. And every owner knows that. Masai is here to stay.”
That brings us to Olshey. There’s been speculation about Portland’s ownership following the death of billionaire owner Paul Allen in 2018. The Blazers are now run by his sister, Jody, the trustee, who has given off vibes the team is not for sale.
Olshey, 54, became the only NBA executive willing to take a chance on Carmelo Anthony — and it’s paid off. However, the Blazers look hard-pressed to make the playoffs, meaning he could be more available in mid-April than Ujiri, whose Raptors could have a long run.
Indeed, the Blazers (9-15) have hit hard times after making it to the Western Conference finals last season after Olshey rolled the dice with another former Knick Enes Kanter last February.
NBA insiders commend Olshey for his leadership, his faith in coach Terry Stotts while others in the organization had wavered and being one of the NBA’s most well-liked execs.
Yes, Olshey is happy in rainy Portland, but one person close to him says the Blazers may not be his last stop. He’s 54 and believed to be among the NBA’s top-five highest-paid executives.
“He’s got full autonomy here to run things as he sees fit and he’s pretty happy with his salary, I think,’’ the NBA official said. “He’s never going to be a huge fan of retiring in Portland as a city, so maybe this isn’t his final destination. But he’s not a big media guy even if he’s a big-city guy in some ways.”
Olshey has a fascinating background as he lived in New York City as an aspiring actor, landing soap-opera roles in “All My Children”, “Loving” and “One Life to Live” before moving to Los Angeles.
Olshey rose up the ranks with the Clippers, starting as a player personnel director in 2003 and finishing in 2010 as the GM who engineered the Chris Paul trade with New Orleans.
Olshey hopped to the Blazers in 2012, and they’ve made the playoffs six straight years while playing himself on the comedy “Portlandia.’’
Attending the West Coast trip are, Mills, GM Scott Perry, player developmental director Craig Robinson, personnel chief Harold Ellis and Westchester Knicks GM Allan Houston, who is close to interim coach Mike Miller.Mills still has not spoken to the media about firing David Fizdale on Friday — the clearest sign he’s on thin ice.
Miller feels he can play all three point guards in Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton to give different looks and also keep energy high on both ends of the floor.