Jamelle McMillan is excelling as a coach in the NBA. It wasn’t his plan, but it worked out that way.
Jamelle, 28, is the son of Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. He remembers watching his dad play growing up, and was a ball boy for Nate’s Seattle SuperSonics team. The two also worked together with USA Basketball in 2012 when Nate was an assistant.
“This game has provided so much for me and my family,” Jamelle said.
The youngest McMillan played four years of college basketball at Arizona State University (2007-11), where he averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds during his senior season as the team captain.
He then remained in hoops as a Director of Basketball Operations at Drake University, and a year later was hired on Monty Williams’ staff in New Orleans. His title was “coaching intern,” but it was a great start being in his early twenties.
After two seasons, Jamelle was promoted to player development coach and later to assistant coach, now under Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry.
This summer, Jamelle had the opportunity to serve as head coach for their Summer League team in Las Vegas. That had to be special for him. (For the record, they went 1-5.)
“This thing never stops. It’s a tough deal going through the grind of a season,” Jamelle was saying to me earlier this year.”
Because it is a grind, McMillan even takes computer coding classes and turns his attention to his passion for technology to decompress after games. But he continues to work his way up the bench.
Nate explained how he advised his son not to walk in his footsteps and coach in the NBA. It demands so much of you and your family — and is obviously very stressful. They lived through that together.
Jamelle didn’t listen, though, as things worked out following their time together with USA Basketball. Dell Demps, the Pelicans GM, offered young Jamelle a job — and it was one he could not refuse.
When the Pelicans were in Indianapolis earlier this year, I spoke with Jamelle about growing up in and NBA family and choosing to remain in it. Also, he said he didn’t even consider or ask Nate about joining his staff last summer when he was promoted to Pacers head coach.
“These guys here [with New Orleans] asked me to stay. The players. That meant a lot,” Jamelle said.
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