Pin blame on McMillan
Many years ago, I listened as a wise college football coach got up in front of his peers at a coaching clinic and told them what life as a professional coach is all about.
'Anything that happens on the field with your team is your fault,' he said. 'Somebody drops a pass, somebody doesn't run a play right, somebody fumbles - it's your fault.
'There's something you could have done - through practice or preparation - that could have kept that from happening. If the player didn't have the ability to accomplish it, that's your fault, too. Why wasn't someone else playing? And why didn't you recruit a better player?'
That's stuck with me for years. I don't see as many coaches today so willing to accept responsibility for the actions of their players, but I respect the ones who do.
At the same time, when I hear a coach completely divorce himself from the actions of his players, I cringe. When I hear a coach begin to use the word 'they' when talking about his team instead of 'us,' I worry that he's using his players as an excuse for his own shortcomings.
That's what Nate McMillan did Saturday night at home when his team lost to Charlotte. Basically, he accused his troops of quitting. Now seriously, after watching Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, et al., this season, do you buy that? You think these guys are quitters?
I don't. But even if they were, I think the appropriate way of dealing with such a thing would be behind closed doors. To call them out as quitters in the media is an easy way to say, 'Hey, this loss wasn't my fault - I didn't do anything wrong. It was those guys, not me.'
It's a lot easier, of course, to blame the players than to say, for instance, 'Well, all season long in the last four minutes of a game, what we've done is spread the floor and handed Brandon Roy the ball. He's been able to create scoring opportunities for himself and others, and we've won those games.
'But now that Roy is out, when we don't have that star to make plays, we don't have a lot to fall back on. So we don't execute well, we don't get good shots, and we falter down the stretch.'
The Blazers basically have made McMillan the face of this franchise. He's still pretty much bulletproof. Very often, I feel like the only media voice in town who ever publicly questions his moves.
But when a coach sets himself apart from his team after a smelly loss like the one Saturday night, it's only fair that someone questions the coach.
Especially when the coach spends all his time blaming the players.