Former Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is returning to Portland for the first time on Monday as an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers. McMillan was fired by the Blazers in March 2012 and he did not coach last season. He was hired by the Pacers back in July.
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com conducted a lengthy interview with McMillan, who offers some thoughts on his time in Portland.
Here are a few snippets.
On the 2011-12 team that fell apart in March...
"We weren't performing, whether I lost them or not. We weren't performing," he said. "Again, there was some players on that team that were probably lost before they even came there. They knew they weren't going to be there long. Some were free agents. So that wasn't my group of guys. One thing about it is, it's hard when you have a group that you've molded, and to bring in guys that are already molded and shaped, and the number of guys we did bring in that particular year, that's was going to be a difficult challenge."
On his handling of Nicolas Batum following a February 2011 trade that landed Gerald Wallace...
Probably the one thing when I look back on my time in Portland that I regret was the decision to take Nicolas out of that lineup and starting Gerald Wallace," McMillan admitted. "That was something that I was battling with the time I was there.
"I knew that Nic was going to be the future. I knew Wesley [Matthews] was going to be the future. Those were the two best wings for us. But bringing in a veteran such as Gerald Wallace and trying to convince him to come off the bench and he did for about a week or two. He felt like he needed to be in the starting lineup. I went against what I really believed was right which was Nicolas and Wesley playing with LaMarcus because they defended and they shot the ball at the two and three positions. But we gave him as much as I felt like he could handle at the time."
On Damian Lillard...
"That kid is sparking that city and that team like Brandon Roy did. He's having that type of impact on that team. "Yeah, Portland is legit. I think they are. You know I've seen Lillard play a couple of times, but just watching him, he has the poise and the demeanor of a Brandon Roy. He seems to be really calm under pressure. The point guard play was something we were really searching for throughout my time there.
McMillan also said he is "very thankful" for having had the opportunity to coach the Blazers and understood why Blazers president Larry Miller decided to pull the plug in 2012.
Here's a link to the full interview.
McMillan, 49, coached in Portland from 2005 until 2012, amassing a 266-269 (.497) record with the Blazers. Portland made three playoff trips under McMillan but did not advance out of the first round.
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