Former Hawks HC Nate McMillan resurfaces with 2023 playoff team: Report

One former Atlanta Hawks head coach has found a new home, landing with a team that may be better suited to fit his style.
Former Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan
Former Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks head coach Quin Snyder is heading into his second full season at the helm after taking over at the end of the 2022-23 season. He logged 21 regular season games in charge before the postseason began.

He took over for Nate McMillan, who spent three seasons with the organization and led them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21. 

The Hawks fired McMillan during the All-Star break in 2022-23 after a 29-30 start to the season.

After “Politely” declining a role on Jason Kidd’s staff with the Dallas Mavericks and being named a candidate for the Milwaukee Bucks coaching vacancy last season, per Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, McMillan is stepping back into the coaching ranks, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

“ESPN Sources: The Los Angeles Lakers are hiring Nate McMillan and Scott Brooks as top assistant coaches on JJ Redick’s new staff,” ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported on X on July 3. Redick gets two longtime head coaches with a combined 1,189 victories to surround him.”

The Lakers are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances and are just one year removed from making the Western Conference Finals.

They are also breaking in a rookie head coach, potentially making McMillan's experience invaluable.

McMillan went 99-80 in his Hawks tenure after taking over for Lloyd Pierce mid-way through the 2020-21 season. But McMillan also has posted a winning record in three of his stints as HC.

He was three games below .500 with the Portland Trail Blazers, which was his longest stint.

Both the Bucks and Mavericks made the postseason last year, with Dallas making a run to the NBA Finals. Perhaps that registered as a missed opportunity for McMillan. His name being mentioned in connection to those openings underscores how he is viewed around the league.

McMillan’s son, Jamelle McMillan, was an assistant on his father’s staff and remained through the end of Snyder’s initial run in 2022-23.

Jamelle McMillan was named head coach of the Motor City Cruise of the G League in August.

Hawks have been worse since firing Nate McMillan

The prevailing theme from Hawks players after McMillan’s firing was more of a reality check than the blame game. Many players pointed to their on-court performance as the root cause of McMillan’s dismissal rather than blame him for them falling short of expectations.

Trae Young insisted he had and would continue to have a solid relationship with McMillan as with all of his former coaches.

A disagreement about Young’s pre-game preparations while injured had sparked controversy.

Hawks coaches and players, including former Hawks stars Dejounte Murray and John Collins, defended McMillan. Collins and Clint Capela both alluded to McMillan’s voice potentially being better suited for a more veteran-laden group (like the Lakers, perhaps).

For the Hawks, though, McMillan’s dismissal has not yielded the desired results. They are 46-57 under Snyder, including going 36-46 last season.

Former Hawks swingman Kevin Huerter said the run to the ECF quickly raised expectations.

The Hawks, it seems, have been recovering from their decisions since that run. They paid Collins and Huerter that offseason only to trade both. They acquired Murray after a first-round exit in 2021-22 and have agreed to trade him nearly two years to the day of that deal.

Former team president Travis Schlenk also stepped down in 2022, though that was more of a front office issue that began with the initial Murray trade.

After years of reactionary moves, perhaps the bloodletting this offseason is a sign of proactivity.