The Portland Trail Blazers’ hiring of Chauncey Billups as their next coach has sparked significant fan and media backlash related to a 1997 sexual assault allegation, prompting franchise guard Damian Lillard to publicly distance himself from the move.

Billups, who is an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, agreed Sunday to a five-year contract to replace Terry Stotts, who departed the Trail Blazers this month after nine seasons.

While Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey said at his year-end news conference that he planned to consider “anywhere from 20 to 25” coaching candidates, Billups surfaced almost immediately as a leader. Olshey and Billups have a long-standing relationship that dates from their time with the Clippers, and Olshey has repeatedly praised Billups over the past decade. Lillard signaled his support June 5 for Billups and then-Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd as a possible replacement for Stotts.

“Chauncey is a proven leader with an elite basketball IQ that has won everywhere he has been,” Olshey said Sunday in a statement, which asserted that Billups’s hire had taken place after a “thorough and equitable” search process. “He is prepared for the challenge of developing the championship habits and strategic approach we need to achieve the expectations and goals for our franchise.”

Billups and Kidd quickly faced criticism from Trail Blazers fans because of off-court incidents that took place during their playing careers. Billups and then-Boston Celtics teammate Ron Mercer in 2000 reached a financial settlement with a woman who alleged she was raped in 1997 at the home of Antoine Walker, another Celtics player. Billups, 44, was a 21-year-old rookie in 1997 and was never charged with a crime relating to the incident. Kidd, who quickly removed his name from Portland’s search, reached an agreement last week to coach the Dallas Mavericks despite a 2001 domestic violence arrest and a 2012 DUI arrest.

When reports surfaced Friday that the Trail Blazers were close to hiring Billups, fans messaged Lillard on social media to express their dissatisfaction. One Twitter user blamed Lillard because the Trail Blazers “were always going to hire exactly who he wanted,” prompting a response from Lillard, who has spent his entire career in Portland.

“Really? I was asked what coaches I like of the names I ‘heard’ and I named them,” Lillard wrote, explaining he had no prior knowledge of the incidents involving Billups and Kidd. “Sorry I wasn’t aware of their history I didn’t read the news when I was [7 or 8 years] old. I don’t support those things … but if this the route y’all [want to] come at me… say less.”

Meanwhile, multiple local media outlets objected to hiring Billups over the weekend. John Canzano, a columnist for the Oregonian, wrote that it “sends a terrible message, particularly to the women in our state.” Blazer’s Edge, a fan website affiliated with SB Nation, published a story with reactions from five women who pushed back against the potential hire.

Yahoo Sports reported Sunday that the developments “may push ... Lillard out the door” because he was receiving blame for the coaching search. The 30-year-old Lillard, who earned all-NBA second-team honors this year, has advanced to the Western Conference finals just once during his nine-year career and endured first-round exits four of the past five seasons. He signed a four-year, $196 million supermax contract extension in 2019 that keeps him under contract through the 2024-25 season.

Billups played 17 seasons in the NBA, winning a championship with the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons and earning five all-star selections. Since retiring in 2013, Billups has worked as an ESPN television analyst and a Clippers broadcaster while also interviewing in 2017 to be the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He joined the Clippers as an assistant in 2020 and has drawn praise for his work with all-star forward Paul George.

“I’m very excited and humbled to be the next coach of the Trail Blazers,” Billups said in a statement. “Portland is a special place and a unique franchise. As a player I always loved playing here because the passion and knowledge of the fans brought out the very best in me as a competitor. Now I’m looking forward to being on the other side of that energy and engaging with the Portland community on a whole other level.”