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Like Father, Like Son: Young McMillan Thriving in NBA

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

January 6, 2014

Pacers associate head coach Nate McMillan had a special moment before Saturday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. About two hours before tip, he and his son, Jamelle, posed at mid-court for a photo.

Like father, like son: Jamelle had worked his way into the NBA.

"It's really a dream come true in a sense ... that he wanted to get into the NBA,” Nate said earlier that day. Nate and Jamelle McMillan

Jamelle, 25, is in his second season working for the New Orleans Pelicans as the team’s player development coach. His first year was very much a trial year, and he far and away exceeded their expectations so they brought him back for another year. Prior to landing a job in The Association, he played four years at Arizona State University and then was the Director of Basketball Operations at Drake University.

The younger McMillan has been around the pro game his entire life, beginning as a Seattle SuperSonics ball boy, and most recently gaining valuable experience working with his father and the USA Olympic Team.

Nate said that Pelicans general manager Dell Demps believed Jamelle would be a great asset for coach Monty Williams, who previously was an assistant in Portland — under none other than Nate McMillan. With the Trail Blazers, Williams focused on consistency, intensity, and purpose every day while working to develop players such as Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster.

It became clear how special the McMillan family is to Williams when I asked him before the game about Jamelle’s role on his staff.

“He pretty much sucks at his job, just like his dad,” Williams joked. “He doesn’t really know much about basketball.

“No, he’s such a joy for us because he just works at it. He makes you feel old; I worked for his dad and now he’s working for me. He and Bryson [Graham, the team’s video coordinator and development director] are probably the smartest people in the basketball ops. Those guys add a lot to the mix for us. They’re getting such an early start. I can’t imagine where they’re going to be when they’re like 30 or 32-years-old because they have so much background, especially Jamelle.

“He’s been in it his whole life and he’s so much like his dad. I look at him sometimes and he’ll do something that nobody else will notice but I can just see it and I’ll be like, ‘That’s Nate.’”

Down in New Orleans, Jamelle McMillan has his hands in a little bit of everything, like video breakdown, game preparation, and working with players on the court. Ultimately, his goal is to someday be a GM, according to his father.

“You kind of start from the position that he's in, almost like an [intern] and work your way up,” Nate said. “He's on cloud nine right now, just enjoying the opportunity that so many people want and to be blessed to get that opportunity.”

Although Jamelle’s “player development” title isn’t as flashy as assistant coach, Nate knows first hand how important those positions are for an NBA team.

“I talk about that role because I know how important his role is for a head coach,” said the eldest McMillan. “Guys like [Pacers assistant video coordinators] Jhared [Simpson] and Mike [DiBenedetto], our guys who aren't considered assistants — those guys play huge roles for a coaching staff because they work a ton of hours. They work with the players. They work to get game preparations right and are typing a lot of our notes. They're drawing up the plays. They are spending time with the players in video. They do a lot of work that is not seen by a lot of people, including the players.”

In Saturday night's game, Coach McMillan and the Pacers pulled away for a double-digit win, but the highlight for Nate was to see his young son on the opposite bench working hard towards his goal.

"Now for me to be back in and the two of us are in — I never would've thought that years ago, when he was a small young man, that the two of us would be working in the NBA,” he said, with a proud grin.

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