Last night, Blazersedge‘s Dave Deckard asked a very simply question: Is Nate on the Hot Seat? Completely understandable to ask the question, especially during the dog days of summer where content can sometimes be harder to find than a cloud in Las Vegas. I tweeted that, in my opinion he shouldn’t be close to it and after a couple replies I see there are those who don’t share my opinion. I’ll keep this short and sweet, I don’t want to go on a Colin Cowherd-esque rant here. But here’s why he shouldn’t.
I understand the nature of the basketball business and how coaches get recycled nearly every two years. I don’t agree with it but I understand it. I understand that Nate McMillan is entering his 6th season as head coach with the Blazers, the longest tenured Blazer coach since Rick Adelman. I just disagree with firing coaches who get you to the playoffs. I disagreed with Chicago firing Vinny Del Negro for that very reason. Unless you’re in a clear championship situation where you’re favored and you fail, coaches shouldn’t be punished for making it to the playoffs. My example for that last scenario was Flip Saunders in Detroit.
Back to Nate, reason #1 and #2 why he shouldn’t be close to the hot seat: The 2009-10 regular season. Last year earned him at least a couple more years of stress-free living, at least it should have. In the 09-10 season, Portland went through one of the most injury riddled seasons, arguably in league history. Everyone was hurt, you know the laundry list and it even includes Nate McMillan. There were distractions galore, a nasty front office battle that was playing out in public. For pete’s sake Juwan Howard was logging the majority of minutes at Center last year. That team won 50 games. 50 games. 5-0. How does he not get the credit he deserves for that season? I mean honestly, I don’t get it.
How is a coach who wins 50 games for the second straight year even close to the hot seat? The thing I hear from people are ‘he can’t win in the playoffs’. Let’s remember, he’s only had two cracks at it, and one of them (this year against Phoenix with Roy hobbled and Rudy in outerspace) shouldn’t be counted against him. It would be one thing if this was like the situation when Mo Cheeks got here, where he inherited a good team that was used to going to the playoffs, couldn’t get out of the first round and then nose dived. This isn’t PJ Carlesimo, inheriting a good team, messing it up, failing in the first round. Nate McMillan built this team up, from 21 wins to 54, and at least deserves the chance to see it fail or succeed.
It’s also not like this team has been around for years and just can’t get over the hump. Andre Miller is in his second year with Portland, ditto for Marcus Camby, Oden’s rarely played. In Nate’s defense, he has not had his full arsenal for very long over the past two years. I could see how Nate could be on the hot seat if everyone had been healthy and Portland was losing. I just don’t buy that he should be punished for winning 50 games when having to mix and match consistently.
Another reason I don’t like people putting him on the hot seat…who are you going to replace him with? Name me someone out there that is guaranteed going to do a better job with this team than Nate has. You can’t.
All of what I said is probably a moot point, because if the Blazers fall in the first round again…Blazer Nation will call for Nate’s head. Honestly, a first round sweep is the only thing that should lose him his job and even then I’d try to defend him. For now let’s all just calm down with the ‘he can’t win a championship talk’, respect the tremendous, tremendous job that he’s done the past two years and get ready for another season.