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Tad Boyle a fan of partnership between Chauncey Billups, Dame Lillard in Portland

Former Buffs star the first CU player to lead NBA team

University of Colorado Boulder men’s basketball ...
Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer
University of Colorado Boulder men’s basketball head coach Tad Boyle runs players through drills during a team practice on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Boulder, Colo.

The showdowns may have occurred in the basketball equivalent of a lifetime ago, but Tad Boyle still harbors the occasional nightmare of watching Damian Lillard tear through his team’s defense.

And, of course, in his decade-plus tenure as the leader of the Colorado men’s basketball team, Boyle has welcomed the opportunity to get to know Buffaloes legend Chauncey Billups.

In Boyle’s humble opinion, Billups coaching Lillard will be a match made in basketball heaven.

On Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers made the hiring of Billups as their next head coach official, reportedly agreeing to a five-year deal with the former Buffs star. One of Billups’ most immediate goals will be to maximize Portland’s potential during the peak career years of Lillard, Portland’s star guard who in college often gave Boyle’s teams fits.

Lillard played at Weber State, and during his first two seasons Boyle was still the head coach at Weber’s Big Sky Conference rival, Northern Colorado. Lillard averaged 15.7 points in 62 games over those two seasons, making Boyle a permanent part of the Dame fan club.

“I’m a big, big Damian Lillard fan,” Boyle said. “I coached against Damian when he was at Weber and I was at Northern Colorado. I think those two together as a coach and player will mesh well. I’m really excited for Chauncey and happy for him.”

Billups, a five-time NBA All-Star and the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals while winning the title with the Detroit Pistons, most recently worked as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers. Until this past March, the Buffs had one just one NCAA Tournament game since Billups led CU to a first-round win against Indiana in the 1997 tournament.

Despite playing just two seasons at CU, Billups still is No. 35 on the Buffs’ all-time scoring list, and his 555 points during his sophomore season of 1996-97 is the 13th-best single-season point total in program history. Picked No. 3 overall by Boston in the 1997 draft, Billups still owns the highest draft slot of any CU player in team history, and he will become the first former Buffs player to serve as an NBA head coach.

Billups, a graduate of Denver’s George Washington High School, is set to be formally introduced as Portland’s leader on Tuesday. His brother, Rodney Billups, spent four seasons as an assistant on Boyle’s staff but this spring was fired as the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Denver, following five seasons.

“Chauncey is a Buff and Colorado is his home. He’s a homegrown guy, so I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. Well deserving,” Boyle said. “Chauncey is a smart guy. I’ve spent some time with him since I’ve been the coach here for the last 11 years. A very well-deserving opportunity and I’ll be pulling for him.”

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