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Blazers fire Pritchard's right hand man

Mar 17, 2010, 8:21 AM EDT

You may not know the name Tom Penn, but front office people throughout the league do — He’s a guy in line for a GM job somewhere. He is Portland’s Vice President of Basketball Operations and a key part of their staff with general manager Kevin Pritchard that has rebuilt Portland into an up-and-comer.

Make that was. Penn was fired late Tuesday.

Officially, team president Larry Miller said it was about the dreaded “philosophical differences” in a statement.

“We felt it was in the organization’s best interest to move in a different direction at this time,” Miller said. “This was not an easy decision, as Tom has played an integral role for us the past three seasons. We thank him for his contributions and wish him the best in the future.”

Penn had been at the forefront of those considered for the Minnesota general managers job last spring, but he got a promotion and stayed in Portland (reports vary on whether or not he was offered that job). When Jason Quick from the Oregonian talked to Penn he did not go into any details, other than to say he was “surprised” and “disappointed.”

Penn was regarded as a top salary cap guy — he helped write the last Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2005. He had worked in both the Memphis and Portland front office.

What really happened is all speculation. But that can be fun, so here’s some guesses.

First, he reportedly ticked off Blazers owner Paul Allen two years ago in the draft war room when they got Greg Oden. Allen is a very involved owner, you don’t get on his bad side. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo added on Twitter.

League sources have been describing unrest in front office for months, centered on Pritchard’s inability to get new contract after Penn did.

Whatever the reason, expect this to be the first domino of several to fall in front office moves in the coming months.

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