After spending his entire 12-year playing career with Seattle, Nate McMillan was named the Sonics interim head coach on Nov. 27, 2000 after serving as assistant coach for the previous two seasons. As the 12th head coach in the franchise’s history, and the youngest in the NBA, he made his debut with a 105-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden on Nov. 28, 2000. Two nights later, he coached his first home game, leading the Sonics to a 121-88 win over the L.A. Lakers at KeyArena -- the team’s second largest margin of victory in the 2000-01 season.
Under McMillan’s leadership, the Sonics swept their season series 4-0 against the Lakers for just the second time in franchise history (1993-94). He led the Sonics to their most successful month in March, when the team won 10 of 11, including a season-high six-game winning streak from March 11 to March 19, to finish the month with a 12-5 record.
The Sonics removed the interim status from McMillan’s title on Jan. 5, 2001 and signed him to a four-year contract on March 27.
In McMillan’s first full NBA campaign as a head coach, he guided Seattle to a 45-37 regular-season record and the seventh seed in the 2002 Western Conference Playoffs. Losing their opening postseason series to the San Antonio Spurs, the Sonics were the only team in the West to take their First Round opponent to a Game Five.
As a player, McMillan was originally selected by the Sonics out of North Carolina State with the 30th overall pick in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. Nate spent his entire professional playing career in Seattle. Because of his dedication to the franchise and his familiar image in a Sonics uniform, Nate affectionately became known in the Seattle community as “Mr. Sonic.”
McMillan retired from his NBA playing days after the 1997-98 season. He left the hardwood as the team’s all-time leader in assists and steals. He is now ranked second in both categories and ranks in the Sonics all-time top-10 in eight other statistical columns.
One of the top defensive players during his NBA career, McMillan was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team in 1994 and 1995. He led the league in steals in 1993-94, averaging a career-high 2.96 per game. On Feb. 23, 1987 vs. the L.A. Clippers, McMillan tied the single-game rookie assist record when he handed out a career-high 25 – a record he still shares with Ernie DiGregorio. He recorded four triple-doubles in his career (vs. Indiana on Jan. 18, 1988, vs. San Antonio on Feb. 14, 1989, vs. Washington on Feb. 17, 1989, and at San Antonio on Nov. 28, 1989).
In his 12 years with Seattle when the team qualified for the postseason 11 times, Nate appeared in more playoff games (98) than anyone in team history. His dozen years as a Sonics player also ranks second only to Fred Brown in number of seasons served with the franchise.
On March 24, 1999, McMillan received one of the highest honors a basketball player can obtain as the Sonics retired his jersey number 10 at halftime during a game against the Washington Wizards. He became just the fourth Sonics player in the history of the franchise to have his number retired, joining team legends Fred Brown, Jack Sikma and Lenny Wilkens.
On March 19, 2001, the National Junior College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association inducted McMillan into their Hall of Fame as a player. Nate played for Chowan College in Murfreesboro, N.C. from 1982 to 1984, where he led the team to the 1984 NJCAA National Tournament and was named NJCAA All-American. He played his next two seasons for North Carolina State University.
McMillan was born Aug. 3, 1964. He and wife Michelle have two children, Jamelle and Brittany Michelle.