To go along with Oregonlive’s You Be the GM post on Nate McMillan today, we wanted to take a minute and offer a little more insight into Nate’s past, present and future. First, you’ve got to give it up to a guy who spent his entire 12-year career playing for the same team, during which he became their all-time leader in assists and steals. Only Downtown Freddy Brown played longer for the Sonics and the Sonics retired McMillan’s #10 jersey in 1999. His tenacious defense made him a respected enemy for our beloved Trailblazers during the golden years of Clyde, Terry, Buck, Jerome and friends.
He was an assistant for two years to Paul Westphal and went on to lead the Sonics for five years, posting a respectable .537 winning percentage, culminating in a 52-30 season in 2004-2005 and a division championship. In Portland, he’s had a little tougher luck, with 21-61, 32-50 and 41-41 seasons adding up to a .382 winning percentage over the last three years. While Nate has been praised for his remarkable ability to focus his team during a timeout, he has also engendered a consistent run of criticism for his backing of an inconsistent Jarrett Jack and the long benching of the once-promising, now-disillusioned Sergio Rodriguez.
None of this is to say that we don’t love Nate. Because we do. More than you can know. Just like in highschool, Mo Cheeks was the teacher who coached golf, taught a few classes, joked around and let you wear a hat while chewing gum in class. Nate ain’t that guy. In Nate’s classroom, no one talks while he’s talking and if you tried turning in an assignment late, he’d tell his policy is No Late Work Accepted, No Exceptions. In a way, Nate’s timing was perfect for the 3rd youngest team in NBA history and, if we’d been able to keep the pace of December and January for another month or two, we would’ve made the playoffs and Nate would’ve been getting serious COY consideration (he finished 9th in the voting, receiving 3 3rd place votes).
Obviously the Blazers’ front office is very happy with Nate and the players love him. But here’s a question to put your Nate-love to the test: what if Brandon Roy or LMA were being treated like Sergio? What if these two were unhappy with Sarge’s discipline and started talking publicly about it? How would you feel then? With names like Avery Johnson and Mike D’Antoni on the market, you have to wonder what it would be like with them at the helm. How would these young guys respond to the General? Is D’Antoni really as bad at developing young players as they say? These are the fun questions we can ask and debate in the off-season, so give us your thoughts below.