Chowan honors McMillan, Final Four team

Published 10:38 am Friday, February 19, 2016



What does Nate McMillan have in common with Michael Jordan, Don Mattingly and Bob Gainey?

The athletic jersey numbers they all once wore now hang in the rafters…or in Mattlingly’s case, on an outfield wall.

Nate McMillan (second from left) is presented his retired #23 jersey from Chowan University President Dr. Chris White (right) and Athletic Director Ozzie McFarland (left). Also pictured is McMillan’s wife, Michelle. -- CAL BRYANT | ROANOKE-CHOWAN NEWS-HERALD

Nate McMillan (second from left) is presented his retired #23 jersey from Chowan University President Dr. Chris White (right) and Athletic Director Ozzie McFarland (left). Also pictured is McMillan’s wife, Michelle. — CAL BRYANT | ROANOKE-CHOWAN NEWS-HERALD

McMillan joined that elite “No. 23” company on Saturday when Chowan University honored him and his running mates from the 1983-84 men’s basketball team, one that reached the of the National Junior College Athletic Association Final Four. His old Chowan Braves jersey took its rightful place among the multiple banners now hanging inside the Helms Center that honor past and present champions.

Each member of Chowan’s former squad received a watch to commemorate their record-setting accomplishments that season, as well.

“This is such an honor,” said McMillan as he stood with his wife, Michelle, on the court during halftime of Saturday’s Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association game against Bowie State.

McMillan, a native of Raleigh, recalls the day his older brother, Randolph, drove him to Murfreesboro.

“He dropped me off at Parker Hall; I was lost,” he said. “I remember being scared as I watched my brother and his wife leave for their trip back to Raleigh. I stood there wondering what I was going to do. It was my first time being away from home and I felt all alone.”

Fortunately for McMillan, his athletic ability on the basketball court and his quest to gain a higher education served him well.

“The next two years were the best of my life,” he said. “There are a lot of great memories for me here on this campus and here inside the Helms Center. It was here that I met my wife, who worked in the basketball office. It was here that I developed such a strong bond with my coach, Bob Burke, and with these guys standing behind me here this afternoon.”

McMillan praised Coach Burke for giving him the opportunity to further develop his basketball skills — hard work that eventually landed him an athletic scholarship at North Carolina State under the legendary Jim Valvano and later as the second round draft pick of the Seattle Supersonics, where he spent 19 seasons as a player and then as the head coach. McMillan’s No. 10 jersey also hangs from the rafters in Raleigh’s PNC Arena and Seattle’s Key Arena.

“Coach Burke brought out the best in me athletically, and Chap [now retired Chowan Chaplin Dr. Hargus Taylor] brought out the best in me academically. I love you guys,” McMillan stressed.

The retirement of McMillan’s jersey is a first in the long and storied history of Chowan athletics.


The 1983-84 men’s basketball team was one of the most successful during Burke’s tenure.

The squad posted a 30-9 record that year, while earning Eastern Conference Championship and NJCAA Region X Championship titles, and made a trip to the Sweet Sixteen and Final Four.

That squad is to this day the only Chowan men’s basketball team to reach the 30-game win mark.

Along with McMillan, members of that team include Bruce Banks, Tracy Battle, Dave Burgess, Jerome Cooper, Jim Dillard, Greg Hollingsworth, Clifton Lynch, Mike Moore, Frank Parker, Scott Reece, John Thomas, Sam Tyson and Todd Wright.

Burgess averaged 13.4 points and eight rebounds per game and Thomas led the country in field goal percentage with 71.3%, averaging 12 points per game from the floor.

McMillan, a current assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers, averaged a triple-double that season; he is the only Brave to do so.

He broke his own assist record that same season with 411 assists on the year while averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per contest.

After competing for Chowan from 1982-84, McMillan transferred to N.C. State, and went on to play professionally for the Supersonics.

He posted four career triple-doubles during his professional playing career, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team twice (1993-94, 1994-95).

After leaving Seattle, McMillan took the head coaching reins of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2005 and stayed with the team until 2012. Additionally, he served as an assistant coach under Mike Kryzyzewski for the United States National Team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. He is currently an assistant coach for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.

McMillan is a member of the NJCAA Basketball Hall of Fame and the Jim Garrison Hall of Fame.

Saturday night at a dinner held at the Pond Football Center, Chowan University recognized McMillan and his wife as Distinguished Alumni.

At the dinner, each member of the team received a watch, commemorating their success on the court that year.

“This was a fantastic team…thank you guys for making my life a bit extra special,” said Burke. “You guys made a big impact on the town of Murfreesboro. There were people standing shoulder to shoulder inside Milton’s Pizza (now Napoli’s) and spilling out on the street listening to those games on the radio.”

Burke recalled the 1984 national tournament, saying it helped put Chowan and Murfreesboro on the map.

“The people out there in Kansas really took a liking to us because of the way we hustled and played as a team,” he said. “Had it not been for Dillard breaking his wrist on a hard foul in our very first game (a victory), we could have won the whole thing. It was an unbelievable run.”

Although he lives by the team concept, Burke said McMillan is deserving to have his Chowan jersey retired.

“But he sweated just like the rest of our players; we played no favoritism,” Burke noted.

“But what it did was open the door for others to follow who came in and said they wanted to be like Nate. You also need to be reminded that the other players from that 83-84 team went on to have great careers as they finished their careers at four-year schools,” Burke recalled, citing Hollingsworth’s outstanding effort at the University of South Florida; and ditto for Moore at West Liberty University, Battle at George Mason University, and Burgess at Virginia Tech.

“I love all you guys; we are Chowan,” Burke said.