Thursday, July 07, 2005


Last night at 8:00 pm Nate McMillan left me a message telling me he had accepted the Portland Trailblazers 5 year offer to be their head coach. At the conclusion of the Storm game last night I spoke with Nate for about 10 minutes.
Here is how he explained his decision to move to Portland …..

More than anything else he wanted to thank the fans, thank the city and thank everyone who has given him 19 wonderful years in Seattle.
He said that after 19 years on the same stage it was time for a change. That he had made up his mind at the beginning of the season that it was time to move on. Throughout the year he prepared himself for the end of his time in Seattle. He mentioned that he fore shadowed this at the start of the season when he talk about “his last ride” with the Sonics.
He mentioned that this was an opportunity to see who he is as a head coach. A challenge outside of an organization he knows as well as Seattle.
I asked him what it was that Portland brought to the table. He mentioned an opportunity. He paralleled the Blazers today to where the Sonics were a few years ago. He said that he is young enough to take on the challenge and with a 5 year offer he could make it happen. He did agree that the difference is that Portland has no all-star.
He wouldn’t tell me about how much the contract was worth.

That is the gist of what Nate said. However, my sources out of Portland tell me the money difference between what Nate got from Portland and Seattle is negligible. This is shocking but according to my source the 5th year of the contract is a team option and the money doesn’t surpass six million a year until the final year which is non-guaranteed.
If this is accurate then one week ago when I spoke with Nate and he said it wasn’t about the money he was telling the truth. The difference in the Sonics offer and the Blazers offer is not significant when you account for state income tax.
So how come Nate left? What is really bizarre is that two weeks ago it was reported that the deal was close to being done and the word out of the McMillan camp was that the deal was close to getting done.
His message to me was that he wanted a new challenge. He wanted to prove himself somewhere new and he wanted to prove his value. It is clear that after 19 years of a relationship that scares lingered, no different then any relationship. However, for Nate some of them were significant enough to feel it was time for a change.


Shane said...

Hey David, thanks for putting up your explanation of Nate's thoughts and reasons. I have to admit I was upset at Nate when I heard the news. However, knowing that he just wanted a challenge in a new place certainly softens the blow.
Do you think Ray Allen signed under the assumption that Nate was coming back? And, since the Allen signing won't be official until later this month, is there any chance Ray will back out?

Locked on Sports said...

I think the opposite I think that Ray was aware that Nate may have been out the door.

Anonymous said...

Locke, to be honest first time I have really been to your site. Its good. I am sad as hell but have decided to wait a few days for things to settle to see how I feel. I also am curious if Ray can back out? I belive he is quite a class act and wouldn't do that, but you never know. Nate will always be "Mr Sonic" in my heart but I will never utter those words again. He has 10 years on me, but I have learned that you are best served to stick with where you are most wanted, and I feel he will belive the same in a few years. Thanks for the great show and web site Locke

Anonymous said...

Blame the owner. He ran disrespeced nate when he would not offer him a contract in the begining of the year. Schultz sucks. Sell the team you bum!

Anonymous said...

First of all thanks for all the time and loyalty that Nate gave to the Sonics. It's true that money isn't everything and I believe that sometimes you havve to step out of the box to measure your self worth. I myself would do the same at any job if I were truly determined to better myself. (Working at the same shop for years can get stale).

I would like for the Sonics to make a run at Flip Saunders. But here's another name to throw into the mix. How about Paul Silas? He would be great with the big men and would instill toughness into the team, maybe show Danny how to control himself on court and lessen fouls. With all the talk of Wally hiring someone with connections to him. Why not hire Lenny Wilkens,Dennis Johnson as assistants? Then we would have almost half the championship roster on board for the coming year to coach along with Sikma. Call me crazy, i find it amusing if not interesting. Thanks Locke!

Sean O'Connor said...

A Sad day in Sonicland... and I wish Nate the best. Nate, and his camp, are doing a nice job controlling the message here. The fact remains, our beloved Mr. Sonic bolts to the rivals after our first good season in a long time... thats a bummer.

Jefferyd32 said...

My heart sank the moment I heard the news. I was shocked! I felt that all the success last year started with Nate. It stings even more with Coach Casey already gone. I would have felt good with him around to continue the system that Nate had set up. With all our young guys, Luke, Nick, I wonder how much of a set back this will be to their development and if building on last years success will now be more difficult.

Anonymous said...

Typical Seattle luck, huh? We finally sign a class-act superstar to a long term deal, only to see our beloved coach leave for a "new challenge" and more dough. Even on our best days, we get bad news. Nate, thanks for 19 great years, but I can't wish you luck. I can't stomach the thought of Mr. Sonic coaching the Blazers. It sickens me.

For the future, the best coach for this team with a winning track record is RICK CARLISLE. Although under contract with the Pacers, he could be had and would be willing to move out here for the same offer the Sonics gave McMillan. Let's call up Bird and get permission to talk to that guy.


Toons said...

David, thanks for the site. Always informative. With regards to Nate I can understand wanting to leave for a change in direction; see what he can do elsewhere. However, his comment that he had made up his mind at the beginning of the season makes me wonder if Dwane Casey would have left; was it a conflict of interest with his involvement and input on draft choices; and, how will his decision affect negotiations with the remaining free agents? I agree management sometimes has the head where the sun doesn't shine, but was Nate as forthright in his negotiations or did he not want to be labeled "dameduck?" Thanks again for all your research and comments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks David good info! I was sad to hear Nate bolted to Portland. It must be all about the money. Or the fact that the expectations in Seattle were going to be so high that Nate felt he just couldn't achieve them. Especially with out Dwayne by his side. He will have a few years before too much is expected. What I don't want to hear is that he felt the Sonics disrespected him by not offering him a extension prior to the start of last season. I believe 90% of the league would have fired him after the 2003/2004 campaign. Up till last year it wasn't very pretty. So I think the Sonics showed him all kinds of loyalty by bringing him back last year. Oh well done is done it doesn't help to kick a dead horse. I am a Sonic fan true and true, I cheer for jersey not the player. I believe the Sonics will get the best coach available. What is to bad is that I can't even root for Nate a little. What can I say, I still can't stand the Blazers. GO SONICS…………….

KB said...

I am happy for Nate, and totally understand his reasoning. Everyone wants a chance to put their own stamp on something, and the opportunity to mold a team that has young players, and an owner that you can count on bringing in the necessary pieces in the future is a great situation to be in. The Sonics had a magical season last year, and there are no guarantees it will be that good next year. I'm betting they will be around .500 next year. I'm betting that Portland will be a force in the NBA in 3 years, and Nate will go on to a great career.

Jeff said...

I feel very disappointed this morning. It will be very strange to see someone who has been a part of this organization for so long go somewhere else.
It hurts that it is just down the road in Portland. Somehow, however strange it may sound, it would be easier for me to deal with seeing Nate in New York. Just knowing that we lost such a great coach and community figure to a team just down the road will sting for the next 5 years and beyond.

deeva24 said...

I am very sad to see Nate go too. I really love this guy and I never met him. I look up to him because of his integrity and grace and you can tell by the players interactions that they highly respect him too.

I also understand the need for change. I have been in WA for all my life and now I will be relocating to Texas.

I wish you and your Family the Best Nate!

Myk said...

I too was sad to see Nate go, he was one of the few long term ties we have had here in Seattle for any sport.

However, if what he said about knowing he was going to leave at the beginning of the year is true I have lost 99.9% of the respect I had for him.

If this is true that means he knew he was going to leave at the end of the season and could have told the Sonics this and allowed them to sign their #1 choice as a repalcement (Casey) to be their coach. Instead he did what all "non-class" acts did and used the Sonics as leverage to get a larger contarct. This method of negotiating should remove any sense of repsect Sonics fans have for Nate and put him in the same class as an A-Rod who used the team to get the most money he could.

What a joke.

Amir said...

I really think Nate believes that he can't go much further with this team. If you look at the cap situation and the fact that Ray Allen is 30, there are very few ways to improve short of striking gold in the draft. In Portland, Nate will have the flexibility, input and, most importantly, the funds, to have an opportunity to build a real title contender.

KB said...

Hey Myk,

The Sonics could have changed the situation by letting Nate negotiate with other teams before July 1st. Then they would have know where they stood sooner, and could have retained Casey. They made the move to wait until free agency to find out what Nate was going to do, trying to cut down on his opps with other teams. You can't blame Nate for the Sonics losing Casey. You must negotiate in bizarro world!

David said...

Haven't you suggested in the past that Nate and Ray weren't especially best buddies? That their relationship was professional and that was that?

I bring it up because everybody seems to think that if Ray signed then Nate would sign, and vice versa ...

Myk said...

Hey KB,

What are you talking about if the Sonics would have let Nate negotiate with other teams before July 1st. In my world (not bizzaro world) if Nate would have said I have no intention of signing with the Sonics (which he must have known since he didn't have any intention of signing at the beginning of the year) I am sure the Sonics would have let him go and signed Casey.

Instead, Nate dragged things out and used the Sonics as a pawn to drive his asking price up. Now the Sonics who were negotiating with only him (in good faith) are stuck without the coach they surely would have wanted to replace Nate with.

Anonymous said...

This really ticks me off. While he was making up his mind...we let the next best candidate go to MN. I feel like we got hung out dry by Nate, not intentionally though. I really wanted to see Coach Casey be "the man" if Nate was moving on!
I'll pass on flip Saunders, no dis-respect to him, but I don't think he's the right guy for the job. Oh well. I hope we can get a good coach in the days of slim pickings. The for letting me vent my frustrations on the subject, have a good day to all.


Anonymous said...

Hey Locke--

Is is possible that the head coach of every single division rival will know the Sonics better and have more experience with Seattle than our new coach? McMillan in Portland, Casey in Minnesota and old George Karl in Denver? (Yes, I know the roster has changed since Karl's tenure, but he'd still know more about our organization than a newcomer). How strange is that? It can't bode well for our chances next year...

Vicious said...

Whatever the motives, im glad the Sonics were able to lock up Allen for the next 5 years. At least we have a broad base of coaches to choose from. Imagine if Nate had left and Ray was still unsigned or had left as well?

Anonymous said...

locke: "This is shocking but according to my source the 5th year of the contract is a team option >"

wally walker on the radio this morning said it was his understanding that nate got 5 years fully guaranteed with a team option for a 6th.

C said...

Locke, thank you, I appreciate your show and site. It surprised me Nate left, but even more so because he went to the Blazers. Nate needs a new challenge? If that is the main reason he left then I think the Sonics are better off with a new coach. They need a coach who embraces the challenge of leading them to a rare NBA championship. In the last 20 plus years, only six different franchises have won an NBA championship. Just to compare how rare it is to win in the NBA, in both MLB and the NFL, they've had twice as many different franchises win a championship over the same period.

If everything goes well for him in Portland then he may have an opportunity to win a championship four to five years from now. Let's say Nate runs the show in Portland and after five years he fails to win a championship, is he a failure?

Why didn't Nate just sit out a year? Maybe Nate loves the Blazers organization, players, and the opportunities in Portland. But what if Portland had a coach already would Nate have taken another job? What opportunities existed for Nate? The Sonics, Blazers, Knicks, Bucks, and maybe Detroit are without coaches. Most likely L. Brown is coming back. The Knicks and Blazers have money, but have big contracts with problematic egos which equate to a mess. The Bucks are without much talent. The Sonics have the most logical advantages from an outside perspective. But maybe he was so tired of Seattle that he had to leave after this season. Why not take a break? He's already got money, time is on his side with his age, he could spend more time with his family, and he could wait for an offer that would suit him. It's difficult to imagine that Portland was such an ideal situation for him. What is it about the Blazers job that made it worth it to him?

Perhaps Nate is a starter, but not a finisher. Some coaches are good with established teams and can help push them over the hump to win an NBA championship (P. Jackson, L. Brown, R. Tomjonavich, G. Popovich). Some coaches (Nate?) do better rebuilding a team with younger players. I don't think Nate will lead them to a championship. As a person I wish him well. In the arena of sports, he's no longer Mr. Sonic he's the enemy!

As far as a replacement coach I like the sound of a few names: M. Iavaroni, T. Izzo, and E. Musselman. Is there any room or any reality to think outside of the box here (foreign or woman coach)? When it comes down to it, I hope it's a coach that can lead us to a championship now - no more five year plans.

If we can't resign AD, JJ or Pot, and Radman; then who replaces them? I like these names: guard - B. Knight (CHA), D. Jones (MIA), E. Watson (MEM), M. Jaric (LAC); center - S. Dalembert (PHI), D. Gadzuric (MIL), D. Davis (IND), M. Moore (LAC); forward - D. Marshall (TOR) or S. Abdul-Rahim (POR).

There are so many question marks for next season. It would be a big disappointment to slide back to mediocrity. Hopefully, management makes some quality decisions in the coming weeks. Go Sonics!

Anonymous said...

Hi David,
If you get a chance, could you ask Dwane Casey if had known or thought about the possibility of Nate leaving and him taking over Sonics? And if he was still a free agent, would he still sign with T'wolves instead of Sonics?
Maybe Casey also wanted a new challenge for his first head coaching job.
Is Bob Weiss a candidate? I hope he stays at least...

Anonymous said...

If he knew he was going to leave why not just say that right at the end of season. Then we could have hired Casey. Seattle let him walk

I don't buy into the new challenge BS. If that is what he wanted he would have known that long ago and could have let the organisation know of this and not left Seattle high and dry.

Anonymous said...

we'll see what casey says tomorrow but he sounded quite surprised in an interview elsewhere today

Anonymous said...

Hippie Portland Bastards!

C said...

Knicks Sign James From Sonics to Be Their Starting Center
Published: July 14, 2005
Jerome James, who played the last four seasons in Seattle, agreed to a five-year deal with the Knicks, according to his agent.

Philthy said...

I'm going to add something new to the table. Isn't anyone extremely interested in seeing what Nate does with that young, but very talented Portland Trail Blazers? Przybilla is coming off a breakout year, and alongside Ratliff they're solid at center. Randolph can still score at will on the block, even if he doesn't pass. Telfair showed a lot of promise last season, and Jarrett Jack should fill in nicely as a backup. They still have Derek Anderson (I think), as well as other young talents, like Travis Outlaw (who finished strong last season), Darius Miles, Martell Webster, Victor Khryapa, Sergei Monya, and Richie Frahm (is he still there?).

They're going to have ups and downs, but they're going to be very fun to watch.

I'm still rooting for Nate!