Jason Quick of The Oregonian wrote an article yesterday that quoted Nate McMillan’s excitement after watching Portland Trailblazer Rudy Fernandez at the Olympics:
“I’m sitting there (in the gold medal game) with a straight face, trying not to smile,” McMillan said. ” (Spain) are the guys we have to beat, but I’m caught. That’s my player and I want to (he claps his hands twice) but I gotta (he makes a serious face) because we are going up against him.”
McMillan said that early in the Olympics, after watching Spain’s second game, he had a fitful night of sleep.
“I was so impressed with him that it was to the point where after the second time I saw him, I didn’t sleep that night because I was moving my rotations around,” McMillan said. “I swear I did not sleep. I could not sleep thinking about him. Because I’m saying, ‘We can put him here, do this with him, do that with him and Brandon (Roy), and do this… So he’s playing for us. Oh yeah. I see that right now.”
This is why USA basketball should be led by a collegiate coach. McMillan could barely resist the urge to cheer for Fernandez in the gold medal game. And that’s understandable. Fernandez played for Spain, but he’s also a member of McMillan’s NBA team. And as such, McMillan is emotionally invested in his success.
It’s hard to imagine McMillan coaching differently against one of his players. But it might be different if his players were on Team USA.
What happens if McMillan is named Coack K’s successor and Jerry Colengelo selects Brandon Roy and/or Greg Oden to the 2012 team? McMillan would be even more emotionally invested in those players. Would he feel an obligation to them and the Trailblazers franchise to give them minutes? If Roy and Oden received little playing time, would that affect their NBA relationship with McMillan?
There are too many variables. Too many conflicts of interest.
There are no conflicts of interest with a collegiate coach. And make no mistake, there are collegiate coaches capable of demanding respect like Coach K did. Roy Williams and Billy Donovan come to mind. Both of those coaches have the X’s and O’s knowledge and the impartiality that should be required to coach Team USA.