We learn the most about people when they are not at their best. When things are tough and they're being tested. True character comes out in the ugly moments, when happiness isn't serving as a shield or disguise.
McMillan was let go from his position as head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers last week after seven years at the helm. Those seven years have been many things, least of all easy. If you were to tell a head coach that his team would draft the likes of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge in one draft and then get the first overall pick and select Greg Oden a year later, he would likely smile and think he had the world in his hands.
Instead, during McMillan's tenure in Portland, his hands were often tied, his vision for his team trapped under the crushing weight of injury after injury, and season after season of disappointment.
Despite the challenges and struggles, McMillan always had his team ready to play. The Blazers fought. They rarely used injury as an excuse, even though it was the single most blatantly obvious excuse in the entire league for why any team was struggling.
McMillan was kind. He was a man who was supportive of his players and, even when he didn't give the media the answers they might have wanted, he was always professional and unfailingly polite.
This week, after he had time to gather his thoughts, and gather himself, really, McMillan showed the extent of his professionalism and depth of his character, taking out a full-page ad in The Oregonian over the weekend to show his appreciation and to give thanks back to the city that became his home while coaching the Blazers.
While he thanks Blazers owner Paul Allen and president Larry Miller, and all of his own staff he worked with over the years, he also thanks all of the staff who worked at the Rose Garden. He speaks to the people of Portland, the heartbeat of each of his Blazers teams over the years, those amazing fans who have proven time and time again to be the true essence of the NBA's sixth man of the year. It was especially touching to see him talk about the unbreakable bond between Portland and its team.
What a way to go out.