Coach to return to team after mother's funeral

Updated: February 2, 2005, 12:57 AM ET
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Coach Nate McMillan is scheduled to rejoin the Seattle SuperSonics for practice Sunday following the funeral of his mother this week in North Carolina.

The memorial service is Friday, but McMillan will miss Seattle's home game Saturday against Charlotte. Jeanette Tyson, 62, died last Sunday.

McMillan is in Raleigh, N.C., dealing with family issues, and fourth-year associate head coach Dwane Casey is running the team in McMillan's absence. They have been speaking several times a day to discuss how the Sonics are playing.

"He's got a lot to deal with," Casey said before Seattle played the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night. "We talk over things. He tells me to do what I do. ... I'm not going to do anything different."

McMillan was upset with the Sonics' lack of energy in their 103-84 home loss to San Antonio on Monday night, Casey said.

In addition, All-Star guard Ray Allen missed his second straight game -- and only his second this season -- with the flu. He saw a team doctor in Seattle and didn't travel to Sacramento, but is expected to be healthy enough to play in Saturday's game.

"The hardest thing is to find the button to push when you don't have the buttons," Casey said, alluding to the absence of Allen.

The players have been impressed with Casey's professionalism during this challenging time when he's basically doing double duty.

Along with his normal pregame jobs of scouting reports and gathering other personnel information, Casey suddenly has several media interviews before a game added to his list.

"He coached Nate McMillan, so that shows he has experience under his belt," forward Rashard Lewis said. "He's being a real pro about it. He's been coaching a long time. He's ready to be a head coach now. He's working overtime."

Casey made it clear he's not trying to replace McMillan. It helps the two men share the same basketball philosophy.

"This is Nate's team," he said. "I have no desire to be the head coach of this team. I don't want to overstep my boundaries, which can become an issue."

This marks the second time in the last month McMillan has left the team to deal with family issues. On Jan. 13, he missed a game against the Los Angeles Clippers to attend the funeral of an aunt.

"I feel for him," Casey said. "He's lost two important people in his life."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press