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The Hoop Doctors

Is Nate McMillan Front Runner for Coach of the Year?

Nate McMillan Portland Trail Blazers

April 15, 2009 – Dr. Casper

‘Dr. Casper’ a.k.a. Ben York from Phoenix’s Fanster.com fame, is also the founder of Ben’s Suns Blog.

The award will almost certainly go to Mike Brown of the Cavaliers who has coached Cleveland to almost 70 wins this season while losing only 1 game at home. George Karl of the Nuggets should get some consideration with Denver all but solidified as the 2nd seed in an incredibly tough Western Conference. However, Nate McMillan has made an incredibly strong case to be considered for Coach of the Year as well.

The Portland Trailblazers are currently 4th in the West with a record of 53-28. With a talented young roster, McMillan has successfully managed to strike a balance between a solid offensive attack and being disciplined on the defensive end. Allowing only 94 points per game with such a young team is no small feat. In fact, only 5 players have more than 3 years experience on the total roster (and only Joel Pryzbilla and Steve Blake get consistent minutes of those 5).

The Blazers obviously have young talent, but it’s McMillan who has been able to harness that youth and present a surprisingly tough/gritty team. Several times this year, the Blazers have shown they are not about to back down from a fight and have united with each other amongst turmoil. Much of this has to do with a group of high-character players, but McMillan also deserves credit for preaching teamwork and accountability. What separates him from other coaches in the league, is that he gets the players to listen and buy-in; something that certainly isn’t easy in such an undisciplined league.

Perhaps what should garner McMillan the most votes is his ability to close tough games with a young team, not only at home, but on the road as well in a difficult division. Portland only averages about 12 turnovers per game and have a point differential of 5.1 which is good for 5th in the league. This has allowed Portland to stay in close games and not make crucial mistakes in the clutch that would be expected from a young squad. Again, this discipline should be attributed to McMillan.

In just 4 years with the Blazers, McMillan has increased Portland’s win total by almost 10 games each year. In addition, this win total has increased incrementally in the Western Conference where there have been 6-8 teams that have been doing the exact same thing. Yet, McMillan has managed to do this with constantly evolving and dynamic rosters. Doing this with such inexperienced players is, in a word, amazing.

McMillan undoubtedly deserves some recognition as Coach of the Year.

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