College reunion for Del Negro and McMillan


Feb 26

By Adam Fluck

Friday night at the United Center was a college reunion of sorts, as former North Carolina State University roommates Vinny Del Negro and Portland Head Coach Nate McMillan recalled their days of sharing a dorm room in Raleigh.

“We were just kids back then, trying to find our way,” recalled Del Negro of McMillan, who is two years older. “He controlled the music in the room—that was for sure.”

McMillan began his collegiate career at Chowan College in Murfreesboro, N.C. from 1982-84, where he led the team to the 1984 NJCAA National Tournament and was named NJCAA All-American.

He played his next two seasons at North Carolina State under the late Jim Valvano. One season prior, the sixth-seeded Wolfpack defeated a Houston team with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon for the NCAA national championship.

“There were players with bigger names than Vinny and I,” said McMillan. “But through hard work and knowing how to play the game, we were able to have success not only at N.C. State, but going to the professional level. I don’t think Vinny or I thought we would be coaching in the NBA some day, but all of a sudden, here we are.”

As for Del Negro as a roommate, McMillan offered no complaints.

“He kept his side of the room clean,” said McMillan. “That’s all I needed. He’s a great guy and a class act. I think he’s doing a great job for the Bulls.”

McMillan also spoke about the transition from playing in the NBA to coaching—another similarity shared by himself and Del Negro.

“It wasn’t tough for me,” he said of the experience. “Handling the basketball and being a point guard in my career pretty much made me the coach on the floor. You had the respect of the players and Vinny was in a similar situation. He ran the point and played some off guard, but he thought as a point guard and you’re making similar decisions as far as offensive calls and establishing a style of play.”

Having spent his entire 12-year playing career with Seattle, McMillan was named the Sonics interim Head Coach on Nov. 27, 2000 after serving as assistant coach for the previous two seasons. He spent five seasons in Seattle before taking over as head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers on July 7, 2005.

As for Friday’s matchup between the Bulls (30-27) and Blazers (34-26), Luol Deng is expected to play despite a sore left knee suffered during Wednesday’s win over the Pacers. Deng banged his knee against Indiana forward Danny Granger, who he and the Bulls will meet again in Indianapolis on Saturday.

“He’s got some swelling in his knee and we’ll see how he looks when he gets out there,” said Del Negro. “If his knee is stiff and he can’t bend his leg very well, it’s not a good sign.”

Del Negro indicated that rookie James Johnson could see some extended minutes if Deng is unable to play or his time on the floor is limited.

Joakim Noah, meanwhile, continues to fight plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Del Negro said that the team has targeted 10-12 minutes of playing time the last few games and that Friday would be similar with a possible boost to 15 minutes.

Chicago has won five of the last ten in this series, but has lost four straight against Portland. Chicago is 33-19 all-time in meetings in the Windy City.

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro provides an update on Deng and Noah’s injuries, and talks about the team’s tough schedule ahead (02.26.10):

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