Raising The Level

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As a fan of the NBA, I often get caught in conversation about how NBA Coaches are much less valuable than the infamous coaches of college basketball.

However, unlike college, the NBA coaches also have to fit into the culture of a ballclub just as much as their players do because they are the messengers between players in the locker room and executives.

Therefore, anyone still doubting the significance of NBA coaches should take a look at what Nate McMillan has done in Atlanta since taking over for Lloyd Pierce earlier this season.

Since Nate McMillan took over as Interim head coach for Atlanta, the Hawks are 25-11 and currently sitting with the fifth seed in the Eastern conference; clinching their first playoff berth since the 2016-2017 season.

Usually when teams turn things around midway through the season it is because they were aggressive in trades before the deadline. However, Atlanta has largely had the same roster since the beginning of the season with the exception of trading Rajon Rondo for Sixth Man Lou Williams. Clearly, allowing the numbers show that McMillan has turned this Hawks organization around and it seems to have the future looking bright for the next few seasons.

McMillan is not new to this; he has been coaching in the NBA since 1998 when he was with the Seattle SuperSonics and later became the Head Coach of the organization in 2000.

Since then, McMillan has since been named Head Coach for the Portland Trailblazers as well as the Indiana Pacers before becoming the interim Head Coach for Atlanta following Pierce’s departure.

McMillan’s most recent stint prior to Atlanta was with the Indiana Pacers, where he spent the past four seasons and had agreed to a two-year extension before getting fired after getting swept by the Miami Heat in the opening round of the playoffs a season ago.

The decision to fire McMillan came after being swept in three of the four playoff appearances and never being able to get to the second round during his time in Indiana.

However, McMillan ended his tenure with the Pacers with a 183-186 overall record involving many devastating injuries, like their All-Star Victor Oladipo.

Before McMillan became Interim Head Coach, the Hawks never seemed to have an organized offense and were just out there to have fun, often resulting in losing late in games and/or losing to teams that they should beat.

Since McMillan was given the promotion, the Hawks have seemingly been much better being consistent in late game situations as well as winning the winnable games that are needed to reach the playoffs.

Also, McMillan has done an outstanding job being able to coach around significant injuries to players with a big role by finding dependable production of Atlanta’s bench.

Throughout McMillan’s coaching career and into this season with the Hawks he has shown that he is able to win with just about any five guys on the floor proves that he should be in the Coach of the year race this season.

I know he has only been with the organization for a few months but the turn around the Hawks have seen since being 14-20 has been astonishing.

Even if McMillan isn’t a part of the discussion the least the Hawks organization could do is to hire him as Head Coach for the next few seasons and keep heading down this path he has forged for the young Hawks squad.