In his first year as coach of the Trail Blazers, Schuler led the team to a 49–33 record, winning the NBA Coach of the Year Award. He followed that up with a 53–29 campaign, though the season ended in a first-round playoff defeat. In his third season with the Blazers, the team was racked with dissension and posted a 25–22 record before Schuler was fired in mid-February. Then-assistant coach Rick Adelman was promoted to replace him on an interim basis. After the Blazers reached the 1989 NBA Playoffs, Adelman was made the head coach on a full-time basis.
One incident Schuler is remembered for occurred at the first press conference that introduced him as the coach of the Trail Blazers, when he fell out of his chair. The footage was seen often on American television in the following days, and Schuler termed it "my instant claim to fame."