A Head Coach that deserves some respect
By Brian Wheeler
The late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield made a living basing his humor on a central theme when he’d tell his audience, “that’s the story of my life…I get no respect!”
In sports and life in general, usually respect has to be earned. But there are those who feel they are being cheated out of the respect they deserve. For others, you feel for them when they don’treceive the respect you think they’ve earned.
That’s how I feel about Trail Blazers’ Head Coach Nate McMillan. Never once has he asked for more respect than he’s sometimes been given, but I wouldn’t blame him if he did. Here’s a guy that was the captain of the talented Sonics’ teams that he played on. Not Gary Payton. Not Shawn Kemp. Guys who became All-Stars. But Nate McMillan. Ask his old Seattle coach, George Karl who the player was that kept those Sonics’ teams together and acted like another coach on the floor, and he won’t hesitate to tell you it was Nate McMillan. Think of all the great players that donned a Sonics’ uniform over the years. Only one was given the nickname of “Mr. Sonic”. Once again it was Nate McMillan. But outside of the basketball community, not many people realized how valuable Nate was to those Sonics’ teams. In other words, he didn’t get enough respect.
After his playing days, he took over as Sonics’ Head Coach, and restored a winning atmosphere to Seattle. Yet the ownership there was not savvy enough to see all he had done for the franchise, and showed him a lack of respect in considering him for a new long-term contract.
Shrewdly, Blazers’ Owner Paul Allen knew a good thing when he saw it, and pegged Nate for his next Head Coach. Even though he knew his first few seasons would be spent rebuilding the Blazers both on and off the court, McMillan was willing to take on the challenge. And he met it head on and succeeded. And the last two seasons he’s gotten the Blazers back to the playoffs with 54 and 50 win campaigns. Last season was particularly impressive given the number of significant injuries the Blazers had to endure. Now this season he once again has guided his team to playoff contention, despite another year of having to deal with key players being out. Yet there are a lot of local basketball observers that don’t often give him the respect I think he’s truly earned.
For instance, the last two seasons he has never lamented the fact that he hasn’t had a healthy roster to coach. He’d have every right to feel sorry for himself, and yet he’s done quite the opposite. He’s never used injuries as an excuse for not winning games, and has never allowed his team to use it as a crutch either, no pun intended!
If the Blazers continue their present pace the rest of the season and approach 50 wins again, there’s no question in my mind that Nate McMillan will receive strong consideration for NBA Coach-of-the-Year. Maybe then he’ll finally get all the respect that he’s truly earned for a long, long time. And if that happens, I’m guessing Rodney Dangerfield will be smiling down from heaven at the news!