Coach Nate McMillan was fired Thursday as part of a massive overhaul by Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen and team president Larry Miller. McMillan is a former Sonics coach and player.
PORTLAND — Nate McMillan came to Portland in July 2005 with a mission to rebuild the Trail Blazers into an NBA Western Conference contender and repair the once-proud franchise’s tattered image with its adoring fan base.
The dignity and respect have largely been restored, but the division titles and playoff successes have proved more difficult to come by. And with the losses seemingly getting uglier each time the team hit the court, the Blazers brass felt it was time for McMillan to go and to start the process all over again.
McMillan, 47, was fired Thursday as part of a massive overhaul by Blazers owner Paul Allen and team president Larry Miller.
McMillan, a former Sonics coach and player, had a 266-269 record as Portland’s coach. He guided the Sonics from 2000 to 2005 and had a 212-183 record.
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Portland also released often-injured center Greg Oden, who was the first player drafted in 2007, and made two trades.
In a news conference Thursday night, Miller said the decision to make the changes was “unavoidable.”
Miller said, “The moves that we made … today really set us up for this summer with the draft and with free agency, to really be able to move in the direction that we want to move in and make this team better.”
Portland has lost seven of its last nine games, including a 42-point beating delivered by the Knicks on Wednesday in New York.
McMillan’s firing means 75 percent of the nucleus that was supposed to lead the Blazers to greatness is gone. With McMillan drawing up plays for All-Star guard Brandon Roy and forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and with Oden getting acclimated to the league as a prized rookie, Portland won 54 games in 2008-09 and looked to be on the rise.
But Roy, a former Washington Huskies standout, announced his retirement in December because of recurring knee problems and Oden saw yet another season go down the drain when he had his third microfracture knee surgery in February. The Blazers waived him to make room for players arriving via trades.
“That’s hard to come back from, but we feel we’ve set a course,” acting general manager Chad Buchanan said. “Obviously LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star player in our league. We’ve got a lot of room to spend this summer. We’ve got some really attractive draft picks. We feel good about the direction we’re setting ourselves with.”
Assistant coach Kaleb Canales, 34, was made interim coach.
There was talk of recent locker-room dissent.
Columnist John Canzano of The Oregonian wrote, “Anyone who paid close attention knew McMillan lost his team weeks ago.”
ESPN.com‘s Chad Ford wrote players Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford “quietly orchestrated a mutiny ever since Nate McMillan chewed them out in a video session awhile back.”
Miller, quoted in The Oregonian, said, “Nate was not happy with where things were. I think he understood that the team was not putting out the kind of effort that he wanted to see, that any of us wanted to see.”
The Blazers traded veteran center Marcus Camby to the Houston Rockets for center Hasheem Thabeet and point guard Jonny Flynn and versatile forward Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets for center Mehmet Okur and forward Shawne Williams.
“Some tough trades today & letting Nate go but had to face reality of how the season was going,” Allen tweeted. “Now (the Blazers are) focusing on future.”