On November 27, 2000, the SuperSonics fire head coach Paul Westphal and promote assistant coach and former SuperSonics player Nate McMillan to guide the team. McMillan has been a coach with the team since the 1998-99 season and spent his entire playing career as a Sonic, retiring after the 1997-98 season as the team's leader in assists and steals (he is now second in both categories).
Westphal struggled to find sustained success with the team. The Sonics failed to make the playoffs in his first season as coach (1998-1999), and though they did reach the postseason in 1999-2000, they lost in the first round. Fifteen games in to the 2000-01 season, the Sonics were a disappointing 6-9 and Westphal offered to resign if the players wanted him to. They didn't, but team general manager Wally Walker fired him a few days later.
McMillan had an immediate positive impact on the team. In McMillan's first game as head coach, the Sonics beat the Portland Trail Blazers on the road. Two nights later, Seattle blew out the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at KeyArena. All told, Seattle won nine of its first 12 games with McMillan at the helm.