Nate McMillan Cried After Being Fired By the Portland Trailblazers

by March 21, 2012

After losing to the New York Knicks by 42 points, the most humiliating blow to the Blazers’ calamitous season, head coach Nate McMillan was fired after seven seasons at the helm. It was an emotional affair for him. From the Oregonian: “The ship ran aground and he was the captain. As a result, he will take the blame. ‘I mean, we were playing some bad basketball. Something was going to happen, you just knew it,’ McMillan said Tuesday in his first interview since his firing. ‘To sit here and think that I wasn’t going to be looked at … I wasn’t sitting here thinking I was untouchable. They made a tough decision, but they made it, and I respect that.’ […] No matter what the obstacles had been, be it an ever-revolving management team or major injuries, McMillan had always found a way to win in Portland. So it was vexing to him why he wasn’t able to get the results from a team that had a mix of rising stars, seasoned veterans and players trying to earn new contracts. On Tuesday, he was still unwilling to acknowledge the widely accepted belief that his players had tuned him out and, worse yet, had stopped playing for him. ‘As a group, we just hadn’t connected on the floor with each other, and that was the big thing,’ McMillan said. It was a problem he could never solve this season. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. As the season wore on, and the losses and margin of losses mounted, McMillan said he was increasingly unable to sleep. It was after one of those sleepless nights when his phone rang last week. It was team president Larry Miller. His final moments as Trail Blazers coach had arrived. McMillan had watched the sun rise over the Chicago skyline Thursday morning, the consolation prize to a tortured night with his thoughts that kept him awake all night. The Blazers had been beaten by 42 points the night earlier by New York, and McMillan wrestled with the words he would next deliver to his spiraling team. He would never get the chance. When Miller called, he started with small talk, but quickly got to the point. He said the Blazers were going in a different direction, and it was going to start with replacing McMillan. The phone line went silent. […] ‘When everybody else started to find out, I knew then it was for real, that this really happened, you are no longer a Blazer. You are no longer the head coach of the Blazers,’ McMillan said. He eventually called his wife, Michelle, who called their son and daughter, who immediately called their father. A couple of hours after being informed, the reality had sunk in. And so came the emotions. He cried.”