It’s quite a change of seasons for McMillan, who went from being fired as Pacers coach to Hawks assistant under Lloyd Pierce to interim coach to head coach in one year. (Pierce has since been hired as an assistant with Rick Carlisle and the Pacers.)
“You know he knows what he’s talking about without him having to tell you all that himself. He used to be a defensive player, he used to play in the NBA for this long; he played with Gary Payton, how long he’s coached. There’s never a moment where he has to tell us (all that), it’s almost like there’s a respect level coming from that type of background and guys listening to him.”
Huerter wasn’t finished with explaining how McMillan is the ideal coach for NBA players.
“Knowing how to talk to people. Always kind of pushing the right buttons and in a lot of ways, being unafraid to throw certain lineups out there,” Huerter said. “Going with guys who are hot and being someone who can obviously connect with Trae (Young). He just continues to push the right buttons. He’s a great motivator.”
The Hawks went 27-11 under McMillan after a 14-20 start in the regular season. They made it to the conference finals as a No. 5 seed, winning their first conference finals game since the franchise moved to Atlanta (1968-69).
“I think even before the postseason started, he did a great job from Day 1 when he came in,” Schlenk said. “The players responded to him extremely well and I thought he did a great job of being really consistent with his messaging to the group.
“I don’t remember the exact day or time, but at some point during the regular season, I went to Nate and told him that the job was his if he wanted it, and we both agreed to wait until the end of the season to formalize it. But it was before the playoffs.”