Hawks’ McMillan: ‘I believe what we accomplished this season is just the beginning of what we can achieve’

The Atlanta Hawks named Nate McMillan as full-time head coach, the team announced Thursday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year deal. 

Named Atlanta’s interim head coach on March 1, 2021, McMillan, 56, led the Hawks to a 27-11 (.711) record over the remainder of the regular season, winning his first eight contests. Including postseason games, the Hawks recorded a 37-19 mark (.661) under McMillan’s guidance.

After leading the club to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, McMillan and the Hawks topped the fourth-seeded New York Knicks in the First Round, 4-1, and took out the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference Semifinals, 4-3. The Hawks reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in Atlanta history before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.

McMillan became the third coach in the last 40 years to lead his team to the Conference Finals after taking over in-season (Pat Riley twice, ’82 Lakers and ’06 Heat; Tyronn Lue, ’16 Cavaliers).

“I am truly blessed to be able to lead this special group into the future,” McMillan said. “I believe what we accomplished this season is just the beginning of what we can achieve if we stay connected and committed to each other.”

Including his time as head coach with Seattle (2000-05), Portland (2005-12), Indiana (2016-20), and the Hawks, McMillan has led his teams to a 688-599 (.535) mark in 1,287 regular-season games. He also has 71 games of postseason head coaching experience.

The future is bright in Atlanta with Trae Young, and all the other young talent on this roster. However, next season won’t be easy, especially when you look at the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia are still probably better than the Hawks, but maybe things will be different if the young guys can grow.

Hawks’ McMillan: ‘What I respect about Trae(Young), he’s going to always stay aggressive’

Trae Young has taken full advantage of his first playoff experience, and if you did not think he was a star before the playoffs, your mind has probably been changed.

Young had a playoff career-high 48 points, to go along with 11 assists, and seven rebounds as the Hawks defeated the Bucks 116-113 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night.

Game 2 is on Friday night in Milwaukee.

According to StatMuse, the 22-year-old Young is only player with at least 45 points and 10 assists in a conference finals game, and his 48 points is the most points in a conference finals’ debut. In addition, Young’s 48 points tied LeBron James for the most points by a player age 22 or younger in a Conference or Division finals game, according to ESPN Stats & Info

Young scored or assisted on 72 of Atlanta’s 116 points, and according to Elias Sports, that is the most in a Conference or Division Finals game all-time.

“What I respect about Trae, he’s going to always stay aggressive,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said. “He continued to stay aggressive and take his shots, and tonight those shots were falling for him. I thought he did a good job of, again, reading the defense and getting the ball and putting the ball in the hands of guys who had their matchups.”

Young added: “I’ve seen pretty much every defense. It’s really just figuring out what type of defense they’re showing that night. So I’m not surprised. For me, it’s just trying to make the right read and figure out how they’re going to guard. They guard a certain way and just trying to make plays and attack that way.”

For the third straight series, Atlanta won Game 1 on the road, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Hawks are the first team to win Game 1 on the road in three series within a postseason since the 1998-99 Knicks (excluding the bubble last season). In addition, Atlanta is 6-2 on the road in these playoffs.

“We didn’t get a high seed, so we’ve got to try to steal one on the road,” Young said. “Game 1 is definitely a game that you can really surprise that team. I think with the way we’ve been playing coming out of the gate; you can just tell we’re really focused on our attention to details when it comes to the other team.”

John Collins, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds in Game 1, added on team’s success on the road: ‘I feel like it definitely puts some respect on our name for sure. Going into hostile environments and coming out with victories in Game 1 is definitely something to be proud of. I feel like it’s prepared us for moments like this right now.”

The Hawks and Young are for real, and now after stealing Game 1 against the Bucks, Atlanta got the split that they needed, and Young’s stature in the league continues to grow.

Notes:

-Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists on Wednesday night, and Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

-Collins and Young had the highlight of the game when Young threw a lob pass off the glass to Collins, who finished it with a dunk in the third quarter. Young discussed the play after the game.

“Yeah, like we said in the locker room, he(Collins) knew it was coming,” Young said. “He knew the difference between one of my floaters and one of my passes off the backboard. That’s just the connection we have, the type of chemistry we have. So it’s fun playing with him.”

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