Notes: Three new coaches, but McMillan’s decision is final

Notes following a press conference Tuesday during which the Portland Trail Blazers introduced new assistant coaches Bernie Bickerstaff, Bob Ociepka and Buck Williams at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore.

Blazers head coach Nate McMillan:

“I told my coaches in May that I was going to look at making changes. And that with all the jobs that were available, that they should look at opportunities if the opportunity presented itself.”

McMillan said his new staff has been in place for about three weeks. An official announcement had to be postponed, though, since the team was in the process of hiring a general manager and contract details for the assistants still had to be worked out. McMillan had to ask for patience from his three new hires, and they had to trust him that the deal would go through.

McMillan made a point to thank his staff from last season. But he acknowledged that when he put together his first set of coaches, it was done during a rebuilding period. In addition, small changes during the last few years to McMillan’s staff made him realize that he’d lost some of the things he desired. Bill Bayno left and returned; Joe Prunty was added; Maurice Lucas took a leave of absence due to health reasons; Monty Williams went to New Orleans.

“I felt I lost some of that balance and some of that chemistry on the bench, and needed to get that back.”

Now, McMillan sees the Blazers as an old school-type of team with a traditional center and power forward. His hope is that a new crew of old-school coaches will help guide Portland to the next step in its evolution.

“They bring that experience in having played that style of basketball; having coached against that style of basketball,” McMillan said. “I think they can help me in putting together — whether it’s defense of it’s offense — new ideas, as far as the team we have and the style of play. It’s not going to be a drastic change. We’re not broken. We’ve done some good things. And I think the major (thing) for the team is if we can stay healthy. I haven’t seen my team.”

McMillan said he is open to changing his coaching style and the Blazers’ style of play next season. He plans to meet this week with his new hires to examine the squad’s strengths and weaknesses.

McMillan added that Blazers owner Paul Allen originally hired him to help rebuild the franchise. That task is done. Now, McMillan strongly feels that the Blazers have the potential to win and win big.

McMillan also emphasized several times that Portland is still his team.

“I know what I want to do,” McMillan said. “And for me, going into my sixth year, I want to get to the next level.”

He added: “I’m the head coach. I have a year left on my deal. I’m looking forward to this season and trying to get to that next level.”

On working with Bickerstaff, who was McMillan’s head coach when he was a player in Seattle:

“He will give his opinion, as he always has. But the final decision will be mine. I’m comfortable with making that. I wouldn’t bring someone here and not (be) comfortable with them working alongside me.”

McMillan also stressed that he does not want to label his new staff as defensive- or offensive-minded assistants. He simply wants them to coach

“I want them to bring their egos in here. We’ll find a way to get along. Disagreeing is OK. That’s OK,” McMillan said. “As long as when we walk out of that room, we are on the same page with what we want to do. And that final decision will be mine when we walk out of that room.”

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