Brian Wheeler

Feb 17

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!


  1. Exactly! Great blog Wheels, totally agree :) I am hoping he won't leave!

    by SisillaRiann on 2/17/2011 10:54 AM
  2. I definitely agree with you Wheels. Nate has lacked respect the past few years in Portland, which is interesting considering the respect he gets around the rest of the league. The way he has helped turn this team around in the last several years has been great. I also believe he is a big part of the way the team has been able to perservere through the injuries over the last 2 seasons. He is able to get guys to step up beyond their expected roles.

    by krizzikinz on 2/17/2011 10:58 AM
  3. excellent bog, Wheels, Nate does deserve muc more respect than he receives, namely for the on- and off-court transformations of the team; and for creating a successful team despite the adversities of which, of course, he doesn't complain.

    by Kassandra on 2/17/2011 3:12 PM
  4. Maybe not insightful Wheels, but you have a great way of conveying what we all know and see. That's what makes you the most exciting broadcaster working in the NBA. Cheers to you and cheers to this team of talented and unrelentiung players. I wouldn't trade "blazer fan" for any other sports title in the world. It's an honor to not just witness, but be a part of everything surrounding this team. Yourself included. Thanks for all the hard work and Trailblazer-like, whole-hearted performances. Nothing in the sports world quite brings a smile to my face like BATUM-SHAKALAKA! Keep it up boss. You make the radio broadcast absolutely electric for us poor folk. /salute

    by shynz0r on 2/17/2011 11:43 PM
  5. "That coach is a role model", its what I keep saying in my head and what you have now transcribed to an excellent blog post.

    by Lapinnoir on 2/18/2011 12:36 AM
  6. Wheels:

    Nate has my total respect. I have been a Blazer fan from the getgo and we have had some good coaches, but I don't remember any of them taking a beat up team with their all-star players on the injured list, pull it all together and make the play-offs. Plus he learns as the team learns and you have got to respect anybody that admits they don't know it all and has a lot to learn.

    He has earned the respect of all his players and that is the most important respect to get

    Thank you Wheels great post.

    by Hg on 2/18/2011 8:23 PM
  7. I too totally agree. Nate has been rock-solid in building a team of character on and off the court. They don't whine, complain or often display selfishness. They value teamwork and winning even if means outworking another team with more available talent. I sincerely hope Mr. Cho and Mr. Allen recognize what many of us fans already know, Nate is the coach of the present and the future for the Blazers.

    by Just Tim on 2/18/2011 10:07 PM
  8. There are a group of us out there who have always respected Coach McMillan. He is one of the few coaches in the league who conducts himself with a superior level of class. Win or Lose, you never have to question Nate's level of focus, and with how he's treated each player regarding their strength and/or injuries, anybody can see that he has the player's best interest at heart. He provides for his team an atmosphere of opportunity to earn their play time and blossom in their talent; and that sounds like the definition of ideal coach. The East Coast would snatch Nate up in a heart beat if Portland somehow let him go! He maintains a Zen-like focus admist war-zone injuries that plague this teams brightest stars, keeping them moving in the right direction despite the obstacle. He has no illusions of granduer or ego, and yet he leads his team with a gentele swagger that earned my respect, and has me coming back to the rose garden for these epic games again.

    by J Jakes on 2/24/2011 1:09 AM
  9. But who am I to say?? Just a lonely gay guy.....

    by J Jakes on 2/24/2011 1:18 AM
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