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Nate McMillan Reflects on Coaching Career and the Players He’s Mentored

McMillan goes on a career reflection with Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan sat down with NBC Sports Northwest’s Jason Quick for part two of a two-part podcast interview this week, discussing how he got into coaching, the player he’s had the best connection with and Brandon Roy’s coaching career.

McMillan was head coach of the Blazers between 2005 and 2012, compiling a record of 266-269 with three playoff appearances. Here are some highlights of the conversation:

So what was it that made McMillan think about coaching?

George Karl. I wasn’t thinking about coaching at all.

As his career wound down, McMillan thought about staying with the Sonics after he retired in a front office role, perhaps working with players and accompanying them when they went out for appearances. But it didn’t work out that way.

When I announced that it was going to be my last year, George Karl asked me to come into the meetings, and I was still a player. And I said no. I ain’t retired yet. But I had a lot of injuries, and he said you should coach.

Karl wound up getting fired and going to Milwaukee, but the Sonics did make McMillan an assistant upon his retirement as a player. It didn’t last long.

After year one, they come into my office and say, “Look, we want you to be the head coach.” And I’m sitting there going you are crazy. You’re not talking about me, you’re talking about Dwane Casey. ‘Cause I didn’t feel ready. I wanted to pay my dues.

Yet after just one year as the assistant coach, McMillan was named head coach of the Seattle Supersonics. After five years in Seattle, seven years in Portland, and three years in Indiana as an assistant, he became the head coach of the Pacers in 2016.

When asked which player he has formed the best connection with, McMillan didn’t hesitate. No, it wasn’t Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge.

This kid I’m with now. Victor. He’s different. I felt like Brandon listened. LaMarcus, he listened. This kid feels a little different... We talk a lot more. I’ve had conversation with him at 2, 3 o’clock in the morning after games. We’ve watched video after games... He wants it.

He was also asked about Brandon Roy and what he thought about Roy’s coaching career.

NM: Surprising.
JQ: It is?
NM: It is. Brandon was such a quiet guy. But he knew the game... and when he spoke, sometimes he would speak about plays or something to do. You knew it was the right thing to do because he didn’t say it often, he didn’t do it often. But to see him coaching, or to know that he’s coaching, and they won a championship. Good for him. He’s a good man.
JQ: Do you stay in contact at all?
NM: No. I haven’t spoken to Brandon since maybe a year after (he left the Blazers).

Check out the interview and part one for more thoughts from Nate McMillan.