When Nate McMillan took over for his friend Llyod Pierce as the coach in Atlanta midseason, the Hawks were a stumbling 14-20 team that was not living up to ownership’s expectations following an offseason spending spree (and had been decimated by injuries).
The Hawks got healthy, went 27-11 under McMillan, and vaulted up to the No. 5 seed in the East heading into the playoffs this weekend against the Knicks.
Not surprisingly, Atlanta is thinking of hiring McMillan as the full-time coach, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
"There's strong momentum toward the Hawks making Nate McMillan their permanent head coach."
— Stadium (@Stadium) May 21, 2021
“There’s strong momentum toward the Hawks making Nate McMillan their permanent head coach.”
Previously, McMillan was the head coach in Seattle, Portland, and, most recently, Indiana. With the Pacers he got the most out of a limited roster, putting out a team that played hard and defended, and made the playoffs all four years he was there (never getting out of the first round and being swept in the playoffs three of those four years).
McMillan was let go in Indiana for two reasons: His offensive systems were seen as old-school and holding the team back, and he is a taskmaster of a coach who can wear on players. In came Nate Bjorkgren from Toronto, although that has not gone smoothly at all and he may be on his way out the door.
McMillan can raise the floor of a team, getting them to defend, play hard, and not beat themselves. Whether he is a good fit for an Atlanta organization with grand aspirations behind young stars Trae Young and John Collins is another question, but he is a quality NBA coach who will keep the Hawks relevant. The biggest question may be his relationship with Young, an area where Pierce struggled.
If Young and the young stars of the Hawks want McMillan back, he likely will be.