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Trae Young Would Be 'Surprised' If Nate McMillan Doesn't Return as Hawks Head Coach

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 4, 2021

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young said Friday he'd be "surprised" if interim head coach Nate McMillan doesn't return for the 2021-22 NBA season.

Young appeared on WVEE Radio's The Big Tigger Morning Show (via Jordan Cohn of Audacy Sports) and explained he thinks McMillan has done enough to earn the full-time role:

"I'm not surprised they haven't announced because, I don't know, it could become a distraction. I think everybody kind of knows what's going to be coming. We're all winning, so it's not anything that I feel like he should be worried about or anything like that.
"It's just the timing. We're in the playoffs, it's the end of the season. I don't think it's something they want to take away from the team right now. I mean, obviously, he's done a great job with helping us turn this around, so I'd be surprised if he's not with us next year."

McMillan joined the Hawks' coaching staff in November as an assistant. He was elevated to the head coaching role March 1 after Lloyd Pierce was fired.

Atlanta was 14-20 at the time of the coaching change. It posted 27-11 record after the switch to earn a playoff berth as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks opened the postseason by knocking out the New York Knicks in five games, with Young averaging 29.2 points in the series to lead the charge. They advance to face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals.

Jeff Schultz of The Athletic noted Thursday that McMillan sent a simple text message to Young before the playoffs started: "You're built for this."

Now, with Young firing on all cylinders and one of the NBA's deepest rosters thanks to a reserve group led by Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter and Lou Williams, the Hawks have emerged as a legitimate threat and a tough out in the East.

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McMillan's ability to get a team that was trending toward a massively disappointing playoff-less campaign into contention should ensure the interim tag is ultimately removed.

In March, the 56-year-old North Carolina native said he struggled with the decision about whether to accept the interim role and wasn't going to put any thought into the full-time position, something he said wasn't enough mentioned with general manager Travis Schlenk at the outset.

"I'm going to take this—and you guys are going to hear me say this as much as you ask—one game at a time," McMillan said. "... So far as the future and what I'm looking for, I really haven't thought about that. There was no conversation about that with Travis and I."

McMillan is in his fourth stint as an NBA head coach. He previously spent seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers (2005-12), five with the Seattle SuperSonics (2000-05) and four with the Indiana Pacers (2016-20). He'd spent 12 years with the Sonics as a player from 1986 through 1998.

He owns a 688-599 career coaching record in the regular season, but a lackluster 21-37 mark in the playoffs.

The Hawks open their second-round series with the Sixers on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ABC.

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