Rob Issa, FISM News
Nate McMillan was fired by the Atlanta Hawks less than two years after leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals.
McMillan was let go Tuesday with the Hawks in eighth place in the East at 29-30. Assistant coach Joe Prunty will serve as Atlanta’s interim coach. Prunty joined McMillan’s staff in July 2021.
McMillan was 99-80 with the Hawks after taking over in the second half of the 2020-21 season. He guided the Hawks to a 27-11 mark as an interim coach that season and the team went on to beat the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs. The 76ers were the East’s No. 1 seed but the Hawks won Game 7 on the road in rowdy Philly. They lost in six games to Milwaukee in the conference finals.
McMillan and the Hawks couldn’t build off that success and were eliminated by Miami in five games in the opening round of last year’s playoffs despite a blockbuster midseason trade that brought All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to Atlanta and paired him with fellow All-Star Trae Young in the backcourt.
“I would like to thank Nate for his leadership and professionalism during his time with the Hawks,” Hawks general manager Landry Fields said in a statement. “He is truly a class act, and we appreciate the graciousness and work ethic he brought with him every day.”
The 58-year-old McMillan has coached 19 seasons in the NBA with the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, and Hawks. He is 760-668 in the regular season and 28-48 in 11 trips to the playoffs.
“Decisions like these, especially in-season, are always extremely difficult, but we believe it’s in the best interest of our team to move forward with another voice leading the way,” Fields said.
Prunty previously served as an interim coach with the Bucks for the final 37 games of the 2017-18 season. He was 21-16.
GOD OPENS DOORS
McMillan has leaned on his faith throughout his career during his ups and downs through victory and defeat.
“It’s truly a blessing,” McMillan said the Hawks were eliminated by the Bucks in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.
A lot of my family members and friends and my pastor … you talk about when one door closes, another door opens. I didn’t expect this to happen, but it did. It’s just a blessing. It really was a blessing. I really didn’t look back on what had happened last season (as the Pacers coach). My focus was on, once I got this opportunity, to come down and try to help first Coach (Lloyd) Pierce, and then when the opportunity presented itself for me to coach this team, to try to make it better. I thank God for all the opportunities and the blessings that have been provided to me this year.
NETS EXTEND VAUGHN’S CONTRACT
In other NBA coaching moves, the Brooklyn Nets have extended coach Jacque Vaughn’s contract. Vaughn replaced Steve Nash earlier in the season and has been at the helm during a turbulent season that has seen stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving traded away.
Under Vaughn, the Nets are 32-19 and remain in the playoff mix in the East. Vaughn was coach of the month in December when the Nets went 12-1. They were second in the conference before Durant injured his knee in January. He was traded to Phoenix a few days after Irving was sent to Dallas.
“Jacque has made an immediate and immeasurable impact on our entire organization since assuming the role of head coach earlier this season,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a news release. “On the court, he’s clearly demonstrated his leadership through his ability to connect and communicate at a very high level while displaying tremendous instincts for the game. As a person, they don’t come any better than Jacque. His character is impeccable, and there is not a better representative for our team and our borough.”