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Wednesday, July 6, 2005 - Page updated at 10:06 PM


McMillan to coach Trail Blazers

Seattle Times staff reporter

For Sonics fans, the elation of Tuesday suddenly morphed into the emptiness of Wednesday.

Little more than 24 hours after learning Ray Allen will sign a new contract to remain in Seattle, they were stunned with the news that coach and longtime ex-player Nate McMillan has decided to accept a five-year contract to coach the troubled Portland Trail Blazers.

The move came as a shock not only to many Sonics faithful, but to observers around the NBA. Allen's announcement was widely taken as a sign that McMillan was assured the Seattle club would keep in place the nucleus of a team that unexpectedly won 52 regular-season games last season and made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Portland, owned by Microsoft co-founder and Seahawks owner Paul Allen, announced an afternoon news conference to welcome McMillan to a franchise beset in recent years with behavioral problems off the floor and difficulties winning on it.

The New York Times last weekend reported that McMillan was offered some $6 million per season to coach the Blazers. The Sonics had earlier offered a four-year, $18-million deal, but it was unknown whether that was raised with McMillan's recent courting by other teams as a free agent.

"Our last compensation discussion detailed a proposal that on average would have made Nate one of the five highest-paid active NBA coaches," Sonics president Wally Walker said in a statement. "While we made him a fair offer, we in no way begrudge Nate's ability to earn more than we could offer."

Only a week ago, McMillan appeared on national cable television to discuss the Sonics' selections on draft night. Now he finds himself as the head coach of Portland's No. 1 pick in that draft, Seattle Prep's Martell Webster, whom the Blazers made the No. 6 choice in the draft.

His departure for Portland marks the end of an era in Seattle. McMillan was a highly popular player for 12 years, known as a hard-nosed, team-oriented, defensive-minded guard. He ranks No. 2 in team history behind Gary Payton with 1,544 steals and 4,893 assists.

After his playing days, McMillan joined the Sonics' coaching staff. When Paul Westphal was fired early in the 2000-01 season, McMillan took over as head man and compiled a 212-183 (.537) record.

"Our respect and affection for Nate will not waver, no matter how paradoxical that he is moving to our Northwest rival," Walker said. "More than anything, we want to thank Nate for 19 magnificent years as a Sonic; as a player, as a coach and as an emissary for what is right with the NBA."


Portland had interviewed its own former standout player, ex-Milwaukee coach Terry Porter, and Phoenix Suns assistant Mark Iavaroni. But as of late Wednesday afternoon, owner Allen was believed not to have met with Iavaroni, who was thought to be the fall-back choice of the Blazers had they not landed McMillan.

That became moot when Paul Allen lured his top choice.

Now the questions multiply for the Sonics, who began the off-season with nine free agents before landing Ray Allen back. Will McMillan's departure affect the return of others like Vladimir Radmanovic? And who will Seattle now pursue to replace McMillan? Until several weeks ago, that question might have been answered by the presence of veteran assistant Dwane Casey on McMillan's staff, but Casey recently accepted the Minnesota head coaching job.
Who will take over the reins at KeyArena?
Candidate Current gig Comment
Mark Iavaroni Phoenix assistant Had been lead candidate in Portland
Flip Saunders Ex-Minnesota coach Ten years with T-wolves
Doug Collins TNT analyst Connections with Sonics GM Rick Sund
P.J. Carlesimo San Antonio assistant Two-time NBA head coach
Terry Porter Ex-Milwaukee coach Fired after 2 years with Bucks
Bob Weiss Sonics assistant Head coach with 3 NBA teams
Jack Sikma Sonics assistant Led Sonics to only NBA title

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company



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