Hawks coach Nate McMillan responds to report suggesting he could quit: ‘We’re going to move on’

After a report emerged Friday afternoon suggesting Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan was strongly considering quitting amid a disappointing 17-18 start, the Hawks coach responded to the report before his team’s game against the Lakers.

“I read this article briefly, I have never spoken to this journalist before”, Mcmillan said. “I think in the last two weeks he’s written a few articles with sources in our organization commenting on me, and some things I say and do. Look, at the end of the year, I’ll do as I have always done it, at the end of the season, I talk with my family and I see if I still have this flame, this fire to continue next season. It’s the end of the season. We are all thinking about retirement, but it’s at the end of the season, so we’ll move on.”

Based on that response, McMillan didn’t really refute The Athletic’s Shams Charania report, which also said McMillan’s job appears to be secure for the rest of the season if he decides not to quit. McMillan got the job initially when the team fired former head coach Lloyd Pierce midway through the 2020-21 season.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin appeared on 929 The game in Atlanta on Friday to challenge the story, calling it “junk journalism.” He went on to add that “It’s made up stuff. I’m literally calling Shams. It’s just hack journalism. Hack.”

Under McMillan, the Hawks struggled despite the offseason addition of All-Star guard Dejounte Murray. Things only got worse when Trae Young failed to attend a game following a trade in a shootout that Young skipped to receive treatment for an injury. McMillan reportedly told Young he would have to come off the bench or miss the game for skipping the shoot, and Young chose the latter. Last week, McMillan shared some of his struggles connecting with modern players to reporters.

“I’m coaching a different generation of players that I’ve played with and really coached,” McMillan, who was first hired as a head coach by the Seattle Supersonics in 2000, told reporters. “It’s different the way you communicate, the way the game is played and the way they see the game.”

The Hawks have also undergone a major change at the front office in recent weeks, with former general manager Travis Schlenk being promoted to an advisory role. Three other executives, senior adviser Rod Higgins, director of professional scouting Stephen Giles and vice president of player personnel Derek Pierce, were all fired, according to Charania. Landry Fields took over as general manager, and although talks between him and McMillan were positive, the team ultimately fell short of expectations. Whether it’s now or in the future, it’s going to fall on the head coach.

Coaching in the modern NBA is largely about building and maintaining relationships with superstar players. If McMillan can’t work with Young, the Hawks will have no choice but to reassess the viability of this partnership. And if McMillan himself doubts the relationship, that reassessment could come sooner rather than later.

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