As the 2021 NBA Playoffs draw ever closer to their conclusion, a number of teams have already turned their attention to the offseason and their futures. Chief among them are the Boston Celtics, who have a multitude of big decisions to make after disappointing this season.
New team president Brad Stevens is already knee-deep in a head coaching search that he has to get right. Boasting a roster led by two young All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Beantowners simply cannot be satisfied with a repeat of their 36-36 performance in 2020-21, and hiring the right coach could play a big part in reversing the club’s fortunes.
Several people have emerged as candidates for the job, many with ties to the Celtics. L.A. Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, L.A. Clippers assistant and former Celtic Chauncey Billups, and former Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce have been frequently mentioned as possibilities. So, too, have Stevens assistants past and present, i.e. Jay Larranaga, Kara Lawson and Scott Morrison.
For his part, Heavy’s Sean Deveney believes former Celtic and current Philadelphia 76ers assistant Sam Cassell should be considered.
Those are but a few of the names that have been going around, and other candidates continue to emerge. To that end, a new report has indicated that a head coach whose team is still alive and vying for playoff wins could factor into the search as well.
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B/R: Atlanta Hawks’ Nate McMillan Is a Candidate
On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer broke down the current status of the league’s coaching carousel, namechecking a number of candidates for each open job. And while several of the candidates he mentioned for the Celtics gig have been reported on before, one was entering the discussion for the first time.
Namely, Hawks coach Nate McMillan, who is currently directing his squad in its second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Given the incredible turnaround he keyed for the Hawks, it’s difficult to envision the team allowing McMillan to get away. However, Fischer believes there will be a window of opportunity for Boston.
“Nate McMillan is an under-the-radar contender to become Boston’s 18th head coach in franchise history,” he wrote. “All indications are that Atlanta will remove the interim tag from McMillan’s title and offer an extension, sources said. Yet until that deal is agreed upon, there remains a potential for McMillan to benefit from his successful stint guiding the Hawks through this postseason and test the market elsewhere.”
After starting the season 14-20, McMillan took over as interim coach on March 1. He subsequently led the Hawks to a 27-11 record to close out the campaign and a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta is currently down 2-1 in its Eastern Conference semifinal bout with the Sixers.
McMillan has been a fixture in the NBA since 1986 when he was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics. He went on to play for 12 years with the franchise, making a name for himself as one of the Association’s best defensive players. His career steals mark of 1.9 per contest still ranks 16th in league history.
For his dedication to the Seattle organization, he picked up the nickname Mr. Sonic. That dedication continued into his next phase, as he became one of the Sonics’ assistants the same year his playing career ended — 1998. Two years later, he was the team’s head coach.
After five years at the helm in Seattle, which culminated in a 52-30 record and a playoff series win in 2004-05, he moved on to the Portland Trail Blazers. He would ultimately spend seven years with the club, making three playoff appearances and logging two 50-win campaigns.
His next stop was the Indiana Pacers, with whom he spent three years as an assistant before assuming the head coaching mantle in 2016-17. McMillan subsequently led Indy to four playoff appearances in four seasons. However, he never eclipsed the 50-win mark, and his team was swept in Round 1 in three of those four years.
He joined the Hawks as an assistant in 2020.
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