- Associated Press - Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Portland Trail Blazers have fired coach Nate McMillan.

The Blazers announced the move on Thursday, one day after a 42-point loss to the Knicks in New York. Assistant coach Caleb Kanales will be the interim head coach.

“Clearly the season to this point has not gone the way we had hoped it would and after talking with Nate we decided it was best to part ways,” Blazers President Larry Miller said in a statement issued by the team. “I want to personally acknowledge and thank Nate for his many contributions to this franchise and wish him nothing but the best for the future.”

The firing was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.


The Blazers have lost seven of their last 10 games to fall out of the Western Conference playoff race. The firing was part of an overhaul on Thursday that included trading veteran center Marcus Camby to the Houston Rockets and versatile forward Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets.

“Hard to see coach Nate go,” All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge tweeted. “He was my coach since day one and I’ve grown a lot under his coaching.”

Portland is 20-23 and in 12th place in the West, last in the Northwest Division. McMillan went 266-269 in over six seasons as coach of the Blazers and led them to the playoffs the previous three seasons. But the Blazers failed to make it out of the first round in each of those trips to the postseason, and the warning signs started to pop up pretty early that this season was going to be rough.

General manager Rich Cho was abruptly fired in late May, just weeks before the NBA draft. Once the lockout was lifted in December, Brandon Roy, the heart and soul of the team, was forced to retire because of ongoing knee problems, Aldridge was slowed in camp by a heart condition and former No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden had yet another season end early because of knee surgery.

The chemistry in the locker room, and on the court, seemed to disintegrate as well. Aldridge made the All-Star team after quickly recovering from his heart ailment, but point guard Raymond Felton has bounced in and out of the starting lineup, shooting guard Jamal Crawford has openly complained about the way he has been utilized and the losses have gotten uglier and uglier each time the Blazers have set foot on the court.

They trailed by as many as 29 points in a loss at Indiana on Tuesday, then were embarrassed by the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. All six of their losses in March have come by double digits.

“The fight has to be within everybody and not just a few guys,” Camby said after the game.

McMillan came to the Blazers from Seattle in 2005 to take over a rebuilding organization. He became just the second coach in NBA history to improve a team by at least nine wins or more in three straight seasons and was credited with changing the culture of an organization that had disillusioned a devoted fan base with a lack of success on the court and a reputation for its players causing trouble off of it.

The Blazers are the fourth team to change head coaches this season. Sacramento’s Paul Westphal and Washington’s Flip Saunders were fired and Mike D’Antoni resigned from New York.

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AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.