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Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. - Nate McMillan is leaving the Seattle SuperSonics to coach the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers late Wednesday night hired McMillan, who led the SuperSonics to the Northwest Division title this past season. He will be introduced Thursday at a news conference, the Blazers said in a statement.

McMillan's contract with the Sonics expired July 1 and the Blazers aggressively pursued him. The terms of his contract were not immediately available.

McMillan's departure comes a day after Seattle signed All-Star free agent Ray Allen to a five-year, $85 million contract extension.

"Our last compensation discussion detailed a proposal that on average would have made Nate one of the five highest paid active NBA coaches," Sonics president Wally Walker said in a statement. "While we made him a fair offer, we in no way begrudge Nate's ability to earn more than we could offer.

"Our respect and affection for Nate will not waver, no matter how paradoxical that he is moving to our Northwest rival."

McMillan replaces interim coach Kevin Pritchard, who took over for the fired Maurice Cheeks when the Blazers embarked on a youth movement in midseason. Cheeks was 162-139 in three-plus seasons with Portland.

McMillan had coached the Sonics since Nov. 27, 2000, and compiled a 212-183 record. He spent his entire 12-year playing career with the Sonics.

Not much was expected of the Sonics this season, but McMillan led them to 52 wins and they took the San Antonio Spurs to six games in the Western Conference semifinals.

"We are feeling a mixture of pride in his accomplishments as the head coach of the Sonics and sorrow that he will not be a part of our organization going forward," Walker said.

"The pride stems from seeing his evolution in becoming a head coach less than five years ago to becoming a candidate for coach of the year this past year. He will be missed."

McMillan comes to a team that has lost its way recently after being one of the NBA's most consistent franchises. The Trail Blazers have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, snapping a streak of 21 straight years reaching the postseason in 2004.

Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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