Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Updated: July 7, 12:27 PM ET
McMillan leaves Seattle for Portland

ESPN.com news services

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nate McMillan is leaving the Seattle SuperSonics to coach the Portland Trail Blazers. ESPN.com Insider Chad Ford reports McMillan agreed to a five-year contract.

McMillan, who led the SuperSonics to the Northwest Division title this past season, was hired by the Blazers late Wednesday night. He will be introduced Thursday at a news conference, the Blazers said in a statement.

Greg Anthony on McMillan hiring
Shock was the first word to come to mind when I heard the Portland Trail Blazers hired Nate McMillan. This is interesting because Portland has had the resources and the commitment to winning, while the question with Nate has always been about him getting the chance to win. Although his heart has been in Seattle the chance to win is not there because the SuperSonics are not committed to spending the necessary dollars to try and win a championship.

While we know the commitment is there from Portland's management the real question has been if the competency has been since they've consistently followed one questionable management group with another.

Money alone can't win a championship or even guarantee a chance at one. But from Portland's standpoint this is a step in the right direction. It's also a significant loss for the SuperSonics, who had a proven winner in McMillan and now are left with nothing but uncertainty.

Greg Anthony, an NBA analyst for ESPN and former player, is a regular contributor to Insider.

McMillan's contract with the Sonics expired July 1 and the Blazers aggressively pursued him.

McMillan's departure comes a day after Seattle signed All-Star free agent Ray Allen to a five-year, $80 million contract extension.

"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.

"Our respect and affection for Nate will not waver, no matter how paradoxical that he is moving to our Northwest rival."

McMillan was believed to be the Blazers' No. 1 choice all along, with the team also talking to former Blazers player and Bucks ex-coach Terry Porter and Phoenix assistant Marc Iavaroni.

The Blazers appeared close to offering the job to Iavaroni in late June, with the caveat that they first wanted a shot at luring McMillan away from the SuperSonics. The New York Times reported Sunday that Portland is offering McMillan an annual salary of $6 million.

McMillan replaces interim coach Kevin Pritchard, who took over for the fired Maurice Cheeks when the Blazers embarked on a youth movement in midseason. Cheeks was 162-139 in three-plus seasons with Portland.

McMillan had coached the Sonics since Nov. 27, 2000, and compiled a 212-183 record. McMillan spent his entire 12-year playing career with the Sonics.

Not much was expected of the Sonics this season, but McMillan led them to 52 wins and they took the San Antonio Spurs to six games in the Western Conference semifinals.

"We are feeling a mixture of pride in his accomplishments as the head coach of the Sonics and sorrow that he will not be a part of our organization going forward," Walker said.

"The pride stems from seeing his evolution in becoming a head coach less than five years ago to becoming a candidate for coach of the year this past year. He will be missed."

McMillan comes to a team that has lost its way recently after being one of the NBA's most consistent franchises. The Trail Blazers have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, snapping a streak of 21 straight postseason appearances.

The team finished last season with a 27-55 record, its worst mark in 31 years, and even saw its attendance decline.

Off the court, Trail Blazers players have faced accusations ranging from drug use to dogfighting.

The Blazers are trying to rebuild around young players such as forward Zach Randolph, who only played 46 games last season because of injuries but was the team's leading scorer. Portland has also drafted high school players in the first round of the draft the past three years with Travis Outlaw, Sebastian Telfair and Martell Webster, the Blazers' first pick this year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.