Courting Mr. Sonic
Ray Allen has said repeatedly over the past 10 months that he wants to return to the Sonics, as has fellow guard Antonio Daniels. However, coach Nate McMillan...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Ray Allen has said repeatedly over the past 10 months that he wants to return to the Sonics, as has fellow guard Antonio Daniels. General manager Rick Sund expressed a desire to renew his contract and has began negotiations to extend his deal.
However, coach Nate McMillan, the one who orchestrated the improbable 52-30 revival, has yet to say that he wants to remain with the only NBA franchise that he's ever known.
Given repeated opportunities yesterday during an interview that included CEO and president Wally Walker and Sund, McMillan adroitly dodged the question each time, which left open the possibility that Mr. Sonic may no longer be a Sonic.
"I'm going to take some time and get away," McMillan said. "I talked to Lonnie (Cooper), my agent, the other day and he didn't want to talk to me. He knew that it was so much going on with the end of the season and the excitement of the city and everybody that it wasn't the right time to talk.
Experience: Fourth season.
Contract status: Four-year deal expires June 30.
2004-05 salary: $2.7 million.
Coaching staff: Associate head coach Dwane Casey and assistants Bob Weiss, Dean Demopoulos and Jack Sikma.
"We'll talk over the weekend and then see where we go from there. And then he and Wally and those guys will talk. So that's where I'm at. I haven't really talked about what I wanted to do or contract or anything. ... This week I'll talk with my family and then I'll spend some time over the weekend with Lonnie and then we'll go from there."
McMillan spoke glowingly about the past season and the direction of the team. He thanked the organization for drafting him 30th overall in the second round of the 1986 draft and giving him his first coaching job, which included a four-year, $10.8 million deal.But what he didn't say said just as much as what he did say.
McMillan acknowledged that if he said he wanted to return to Seattle, it might dissuade potential suitors, which would lessen the leverage he has in upcoming negotiations.
Phil Jackson, the top available coaching candidate, reportedly is seeking $10 million a season and Flip Saunders, fired by Minnesota in midseason, is said to be asking $8 million.
Conceivably, Cooper will begin contract talks at $4 million per year, and if a bidding war erupts, then McMillan could command as much as $6 million. Only five NBA coaches (Rick Adelman, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown, Doc Rivers and Jeff Van Gundy) have an average salary of at least $5 million.
According to league sources, the New York Knicks will soon inquire about McMillan, and he might also draw interest from Minnesota, Cleveland and Portland.
Those with knowledge of McMillan's relationship with Walker said the Sonics will likely ask for a "hometown discount" and rely heavily upon his 19-year residence in Seattle. They'll also likely remind McMillan that his teenage son, Jamelle, will be a highly recruited junior at O'Dea High, the returning Class 3A boys championship basketball team.
Walker declined to reveal if any team has contacted the Sonics regarding McMillan and Sund, but said he expects there will be inquiries and plans to deny all requests.
He also said the team would like to re-sign McMillan and Sund before June 30, when their contracts expire, and indicated that re-signing them to lucrative deals may adversely affect offseason acquisitions and limit the amount of the money allocated for signing free agents.
"It's an understatement that we don't have unlimited resources ... some people have more than we do, but we're used to that," Walker said. "But we also have a situation where we got a lot of people that we've been impressed with.
"We recognize that we have a bunch of free agents going into the year and the people that we want to reward and see stick around are the people that help us win games and help their teammates do better."
There was a time when McMillan didn't shy away from voicing his desire to end his coaching year much like his playing career — all with the same team.
The last time he said publicly that he wanted to return to the Sonics was a year ago, after guiding Seattle to a 37-45 record, but management balked at the idea of extending beyond the one year left on his contract.
Now it's the Sonics who are waiting and hoping that Mr. Sonic will remain a Sonic.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org