As feared by many in the Emerald City, Nate McMillan has been hired as the new coach of the Portland Trailblazers. The Seattle Times’ Steve Kelley says it didn’t have to turn out this way.
Some fans will feel betrayed by McMillan, thinking he took the money and ran to Portland. They will feel the man whose uniform hangs from the KeyArena rafters chose greed over loyalty.
They will be dead wrong.
It is the Sonics who weren’t loyal to McMillan. They didn’t get him players when he asked for help. They didn’t honor his success at the end of this season. They played up his love for Seattle and figured they could lowball him because of that love.
They blew it.
Because they let his contract expire last week, the Sonics allowed McMillan, 40, to become the hottest, youngest, available coach on the market.
They did everything but enter him in this weekend’s Seattle-to-Portland bike race. They did everything but nominate him to be the Grand Marshal in Portland’s Rose Parade. They practically bought him a first-class, one-way ticket out of town.
McMillan had to take the money. No coach this side of Phil Jackson can turn down an offer that is expected to be in excess of $6 million a year, especially a young coach coming off the best season of his career.
The Trail Blazers offered him what the Sonics wouldn’t – respect.