More than two years after his death, Harry Glickman, the man who brought professional sports to Portland as the founder of the Trail Blazers, has gathered a few hundred people to remember him.
The crowd Friday at Congregation Beth Israel in northwest Portland included several former NBA players, a former NHL coach and Sen. Ron Wyden. For Wyden, attending the memorial service was nothing. After all, he once flew to the Soviet Union at Glickman’s request.
Wyden shared the story as part of his eulogy for Glickman, who died June 10, 2020, at age 96. In the late 1980s, Glickman, then the Blazers’ president, sent the politician to Moscow to implore Soviet Union officials to allow Arvydas Sabonis, who had been chosen by the Blazers in the first round of the NBA draft in 1986, to come to the United States and play for Portland.
“I had my speech,” Wyden said. “…I’d just whip myself into a foam, and those big, twice my size, Soviet stewards would listen to me and say ‘niet’.”
Although Wyden’s mission failed – Sabonis did not arrive in Portland until 1995 – his story illustrated the effect Glickman had on those around him: they were “going through a brick wall” for him. It was because of the way Glickman treated others, Wyden said.
It was a common theme. The accomplishments that helped Glickman be remembered as the father of Portland sports were dutifully noted during a service that lasted nearly three hours. Glickman first brought the Portland Buckaroos, a minor league hockey team, to the city from 1960 to 1973. Then he successfully sold the NBA choosing Portland for an expansion franchise in 1970. He worked in the Blazers’ front office until his retirement in 1994.
But more was made on how Glickman treated everyone in his orbit — family, players and business associates — as he built the Blazers into a Portland institution. One of Glickman’s favorite lines, “my handshake is all you need,” was repeated often, emphasizing his integrity.
This impact was visible on Friday. Terry Porter, who played for the Blazers from 1985 to 1995, delivered a eulogy. He wiped away tears remembering making the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, but each time he failed to deliver a second title to Portland. Former Blazers star Clyde Drexler also spoke via video.
“No matter how many years you played for the Blazers,” Porter said, “you wore that uniform, so he liked you. You were part of the Blazers family.
Two former Buckaroos, both of whom last played for Glickman’s team more than 50 years ago, were also in attendance. One of them was Tommy McVie, who played for Portland from 1961 to 1966 before becoming NHL head coach. McVie said “no one in the game of hockey or life itself has done more” for him than Glickman.
At some point during her time in Portland, McVie’s wife gave birth to their son. McVie, from Canada, had no health insurance. Glickman paid the hospital bill.
McVie also recalled negotiating a new contract with Glickman during the offseason. When McVie walked into Glickman’s office, Glickman said he had had a long day and he told McVie he could come back the next morning to negotiate. Or, he could make an offer to McVie, and if he was happy, they could end the negotiations on the spot.
Glickman wrote a number on a sheet of paper and slid it onto his desk. McVie didn’t need to return it. He wanted to stay in Portland and he trusted Glickman to be fair.
“Knowing him as I knew him, a great man and an honest man, I said ‘I’m going, I’m going,'” McVie recalled. “And he said, ‘Do you want to see what I just wrote?’ And he gave me $2,000 more – that was a lot of money at the time – he gave me $2,000 more than I was going to ask for.
Wyden not only reminisced about his time at Glickman, but he also issued a call to action to protect Glickman’s legacy moving forward. He expressed hope that Portland could add a WNBA team to the Moda Center, which he thinks Glickman would “defend.”
More importantly, he wants to make sure the stadium’s current occupant doesn’t leave. While Jody Allen, who has served as the Blazers’ president since the death of former owner Paul Allen in 2018, recently issued a statement that the franchise is not for sale imminently, the fact that Allen Reportedly turned down an offer from Nike mogul and Oregon resident Phil Knight to buy the team, sparking concerns that it could eventually be sold to an ownership group that would move it.
Wyden said he’s already had phone conversations with NBA commissioner Adam Silver about keeping the Blazers in Portland, and he’s pledged to do everything in his power to fight a possible move.
“Portlanders, we have a chance to build on what Harry started,” Wyden said. “Keep the Blazers, get a WNBA team.”
–Mitchell Forde for The Oregonian/OregonLive