Vinny Del Negro Defeats his Former Roommate Nate McMillan

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By Paul M. Banks

It’s hard to find examples of former college roommates who both go on to enjoy substantial success at a very high level. Former roomies at North Carolina St. Vinny Del Negro and Nate McMillan both went on to have solid playing careers in the NBA. Both former members of the Wolfpack also coached their respective teams into  the NBA Playoffs. I guess they’re the NBA’s answer to former Harvard roommates Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore

Del Negro in his second year as Bulls Head Coach. McMillan is in his fith year as the Portland Trail Blazers head coach. He inherited a team that was trying to pick up the pieces from the “Jail Blazers” mess of a few years ago. He responded by becoming the first coach in NBA history to improve his team by nine or more wins in three consecutive years.

“We never thought back then we’d be coaching in the NBA, but here we are,” Mcmillan said before sqauring off against his former roomie in Chicago Friday night. He was a guy who kept his side of the room clean. That’s all I needed, he’s a great guy- class act,” McMillan said about Del Negro. Vinny’s Bulls won the game in overtime 115-111.

“He controlled the music in the room- that’s for sure,” Del Negro said of McMillan. “I was just a freshman trying to find my way back then,” he continued.

McMillan has won over a 1,000 games as a player, coach and assistant in the NBA.  As a player he was known for his defense and ball-handling. Par for the course in this league, a team is a reflection of their coach. Portland leads the Western Conference in fewest points allowed per game, and they lead the NBA in defensive rebounding.

They also excel in protecting the ball, ranking first in steals allowed and blocks allowed per contest. In addition they lead the West in fewest turnovers per game.

“It (making the transition from player to coach) wasn’t tough for me. Because handling the basketball and being a point guard my whole NBA career you’re basically a coach on the floor and you have the respect of the players. And Vinny was in a similar situation; he ran the point. He played some off guard but he thought as a point guard, making similar decisions, establishing offensive calls, finding a style of play,” McMillan stated.

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