FIRE NATE MCMILLAN!-Part 1 (Roots)

For almost two decades Nate McMillan was the enemy; Mr. Sonic they called him in Seattle.

After a career as a third guard on perennial middle of the conference team, McMillan became an assistant and then the head coach of his beloved Seattle SuperSonics. His coaching career began early on in 2000 when he took over recently-fired Paul Westphal and lead the Sonics to a 38-29 record. With a solid squad of players he was familiar with from both playing and coaching, McMillan had to do very little actual coaching and was able to rely on talent. As a young coach, McMillan lead the Sonics to an average of about 42 wins over his 4+ years with the Sonics. However, the Sonics are in the western conference and 42 wins only lead to two seasons where they qualified for the playoffs with only one leading out of the first round.

Lucky for McMillan (this is a trend if you hadn’t noticed), his teams best season came in his contract year as a coach as his team won 52 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs. With his success and his local Northwest roots, a rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers franchise reached up the I-5 corridor and offered McMillan a much larger salary than he was being offered by the SuperSonics (who were in the process of being sold) and thus became the coach of the Trail Blazers.

Upon arrival, McMillan said all the right things. He was going to make sure the players were disciplined and made sure to put a serious emphasis on defense. McMillan had made the Second Team All-NBA Defense two times as a player and thus people bought into him having a defensive presence that the Blazers could thrive on…They were wrong.

What these people had forgotten was that McMillan’s “best” coaching year with Seattle was so successful because of offense. Seattle was a run-and-gun offensive team that only won games by a margin fewer than 3 points per game (2.3). The starting lineup of that team, Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Vladmir Radmanovic, and Nick Collison were all shooters (with the exception of Collison), and thus spaced the floor so well that they were able to score at will.

This point was lost on Blazer management who have been long-known for their terrible decisions (see: Bowie, Sam). So with the new coach wrapped up, the Blazers began rebuilding. After one miserable season that saw the Blazers win only 21 times, the Blazers struck gold as then Assistant General Manager Kevin Pritchard talked the aforementioned terrible-decision-makers into picking University of Washington star, Brandon Roy. This changed things, to say the least.

With Roy at the helm, the Blazers got progressively better, and while that was happening, Kevin Pritchard was getting promoted to General Manager. Pritchard “Pritch-Slapped” the league backwards and forwards trading away cancerous and under-productive players, exchanging them for much more talented and productive young ones. With Pritchard wheeling and dealing like a Wall Street executive, McMillans job was simple, “keep them on track.”

McMillan did just that…for awhile. He made sure they were relatively productive for three quarters of play and then in the fourth quarter he made sure the Blazers gave the ball to Brandon Roy. This was an effective strategy as Roy became Mr. 4th quarter, hitting clutch shots in seemingly every game.

Things were fine, and McMillan appeared to most as a great coach. But he’s not. With Pritchard fired (for terrible reasons), and no longer dealing for players to make McMillan look good for the first three quarters, for first time in his five years with the Blazers (39 wins on average –48.2% win percentage), McMillan did not have “Brandon Roy” in the fourth quarter for an extended period of time. With Roy greatly hobbled by knee injuries, McMillans “strategy” of force feeding LaMarcus Aldridge for two quarters and then immediately forgetting about him, only allowing ultra-talented Rudy Fernandez shoot from the outside, and letting the rest of the players do whatever they want for three quarters no longer worked. No Roy meant no finisher, and no finisher means the Blazers don’t win.

McMillan is complacent about it. Making subtle changes like starting super-sub Wes Matthews over super-ineffective Nicolas Batum should have been a no-brainer, but instead McMillan thought about it for a week or two and then finally did it. Unwilling to compromise from any other potential changes that could and would improve the team, McMillan has the Blazers under .500% (losing record at 8-9) to start December. Having absolutely collapsed the past four games in the fourth quarter, McMillan has done nothing but play the same players in a slightly varied lineup to get the team out of its funk. Rather than play tremendous shooters like rookie Luke Babbitt or second year point guard Patty Mills, McMillan has instead gone with inexperienced Armon “I will make a bad decision, I am only a rookie” Johnson, Andre “Please don’t leave me open, I really cannot shoot” Miller, and Dante “I lost my jumper” Cunningham.

As much as I appreciated his efforts to let Roy isolate and takeover the fourth quarter in tonight’s game, McMillan has to accept that Roy is too injured to do such things and should instead allow Roy to play off the ball as a shooter until he gets back to full strength.

When I mentioned my frustrations with “Coach” McMillan to someone at my internship, they made an interesting comparison to EKS. What is EKS? One might ask, well EKS is…

To be continued…

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2 Responses to FIRE NATE MCMILLAN!-Part 1 (Roots)

  1. alisonklapper says:

    Any suggestions for a new coach?

    • hkaplanm says:

      A few. But I would actually rather just give the team over to Bill Bayno (one of the assistant coaches) for the rest of the season and wait till some of the better coaches get fired by dumb owners like Jim O’Brien from Indiana. I don’t actually blame the training staff, but I get why most people do.

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