Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Nate McMillan named Hawks head coach, thanks God for this season's success

After a stellar turnaround midway through the 2020-21 season and strong postseason run, the Atlanta Hawks announced plans to establish interim head coach Nate McMillan as their head coach going forward.

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Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk made the announcement Monday in a conference call with reporters.

“We’ve now worked together for four months,” Schlenk said. “We’ve had a good working relationship, and I’m excited he’s going to be our head coach moving forward.”

The announcement follows the Hawks’ season-ending loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Only a few months ago, hopes of deep playoff run seemed slim.

On March 1, Atlanta held a 14-20 record, which caused the organization to fire head coach Lloyd Pierce and install his assistant, McMillan, as the interim head coach. McMillan went on to lead the team to a 27-11 record to end the regular season.

The success continued into the postseason, with the fifth-seeded Hawks defeating the No. 4-seeded New York Knicks and top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, before losing to No. 3 Milwaukee in six games. The Hawks reached the conference finals for the first time since 2015 and just the second time since moving to Atlanta in 1968.

McMillan considered this season to be a blessing and utilized the opportunity to improve his team.

“It’s truly a blessing,” McMillan said after the Game 6 loss to the Bucks. “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 (coaching the Pacers). My focus was on, once I got this opportunity, to come down and try to help first Coach Pierce, and then when the opportunity presented itself for me to coach this team, to try to make it better.

“That was just the focus this entire season, trying to make it better here for this organization. It really was a blessing. I thank God for all the opportunities and the blessings that have been provided to me this year.”

Atlanta is the fourth team that McMillan, who played in the NBA for 12 years (1986-1998), has been at the helm for. He coached Seattle for five seasons, then Portland for seven and Indiana for four, before joining the Hawks as an assistant to start the 2020-21 season.

Throughout this past year, and his career, McMillan has given glory to God. After the Hawks advanced to the conference finals, he made sure to begin his postgame press conference by thanking God.

“Thank you God for all that has been given to me this season,” he said.

Led on the court by rising star Trae Young, the Hawks and McMillan believe they are in the beginning stages of what could become a contending team for years to come.

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