Hawks coach Nate McMillan responds to report suggesting he may retire: ‘We’ll move on past that’

Hawks coach Nate McMillan responds to report suggesting he may retire: ‘We’ll move on past that’

After a report surfaced Friday afternoon suggesting Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan is strongly considering stepping down amid a disappointing 17-18 start, the Hawks coach responded to the report before the team’s game against the Lakers.

“I read that article briefly, I’ve never spoken to that reporter before,” McMillan said. “I think in the last two weeks he’s written a couple of articles with some sources in our organization making some comments about me and some things that I say and do. Look, at the end of the year I’m going to do what I’ve always done, at the end of the season I talk to my family and see if I still have that flame, that fire to go on next season. It’s the end of the season. We all think about retiring, but it’s the end of the season. So we move on past it.”

Based on that response, McMillan didn’t really refute the reporting of The Athletic’s Shams Charania, who also said that McMillan’s job appears to be safe for the rest of the season if he decides not to retire. McMillan only got the job when the team fired former head coach Lloyd Pierce midway through the 2020-21 season.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin appeared 929 The game in Atlanta on Friday to dispute the story, calling it “junk journalism.” He went on to add that “This is made up stuff. I’m literally calling Shams. It’s just hack journalism. Hack.”

Under McMillan, the Hawks have struggled despite the offseason addition of All-Star guard Dejounte Murray. Things only got worse when Trae Young didn’t participate in a game after an exchange at a shootaround that Young skipped to get treatment for an injury. McMillan reportedly told Young he had to come off the bench or miss the game to skip the shootaround, and Young chose the latter. Last week, McMillan shared some of his struggles connecting with modern players to reporters.

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“I’m coaching a different generation of players that I’ve played with and really coach,” McMillan, who was first hired as head coach by the Seattle Supersonics in 2000, told reporters. “It’s different the way you communicate, the way the game is played and how they look at the game.”

The Hawks have also undergone a major change in the front office in recent weeks, with former general manager Travis Schlenk given an advisory role. Three other executives, senior adviser Rod Higgins, director of professional scouting Stephen Giles and vice president of player personnel Derek Pierce, have all been let go, according to Charania. Landry Fields has taken over as general manager, and while the discussions between him and McMillan have been positive, the team has ultimately failed to live up to expectations. Whether it’s now or in the future, it’s going to fall on the head coach.

Coaching in the modern NBA is largely about building and maintaining relationships with superstar players. If McMillan can’t work with Young, the Hawks will have no choice but to re-evaluate the viability of that partnership. And if McMillan himself doubts the relationship, that reassessment may come sooner rather than later.

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