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Nate McMillan Discusses Trail Blazers Tenure

The current Pacers’ and ex-Blazers’ coach talks with Jason Quick about his time in Portland.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan sat down with NBC Sports Northwest’s Jason Quick for part 1 of a 2 part podcast interview this week, discussing his tenure with the Portland Trail Blazers. McMillan was head coach of the Blazers between 2005 and 2012, compiling a record of 266 - 269 with 3 playoff appearances. His players included Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden, plus veterans Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, and more.

Highlights from the dialogue:

McMillan’s Pacer team is exceeding expectations this year. Is he surprised at the team’s success?

Nate McMillan: I don’t look at what, you know, the fan base or what people project us as being. My approach is always been take the team that I have and go game to game and be the best that we can be. So is it a surprise? I go into every game expecting us to win.

December 9th, 2011, was an eventful day in Blazer history. The NBA lockout had just ended, McMillan and the team had assembled for dinner the night before training camp began, but where is Brandon Roy?

NM: The night of the dinner 6 o’clock, i’m looking at the clock, 6:01, 6:02, :03, :04, :05 and there’s no Brandon. And I’m like, ok he’s late, that’s not like Brandon. And I find out that... Larry calls me and says that Brandon is going to retire, and I’m like... Really.

Portland’s woes didn’t stop there. What About Greg Oden?

NM: We are sitting down we’re having dinner. 15 minutes later I get a phone call from Larry, and he talks about Greg had a MRI, and that Greg has another micro-fra-, he’s going to need another surgery, that’s going to end his season. And I’m saying, “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

But at least the Blazers had LaMarcus Aldridge, right?

15 minutes later I get another phone call. From Larry. “Are you sitting down?” I’m thinking it can’t be anything else. And then he tells me LaMarcus’ situation. That LaMarcus was not going to be ready for a couple weeks. And I’m sitting there like... wow.

Conversation moved to all of the crazy things that a coach needs to deal with.

JQ: Explain just how much of coaching is stuff that fans don’t see on game night or hear about at a practice.

NM: I would say probably more than half. I mean, it’s building that relationship, that trust. Especially with young players. I’m working in your best interest, but my first interest is this team. I want to try to put you in a position where you can be productive, but you can help this team. A lot of what goes on especially with a young team similar to what I had in Portland, they’re all trying to establish themselves. There were conversations that I had to talk about. There were guys concerned about who was on the schedule. Who’s face was on the schedule... That was something that bothered them.

Quick also asked McMillan about a blow up between him and Andre Miller in practice and how it changed him.

NM: It really bothered me. I had to look at myself. I think that... that’s when i really started to change my approach to coaching, to the players.

Quick and McMillan have more to come in Part 2.