After working through the NBA’s assistant coaching ranks over the past decade, Jamelle McMillan’s time as a head coach has arrived. In his first game in the driver’s seat, he led the Motor City Cruise past the Grand Rapids Gold 112-99 on the road during the season opener on Sunday.
McMillan came to Detroit with Monty Williams over the summer once Williams was hired as the head coach of the Pistons, the NBA parent organization of the Cruise. Initially, the plan was for McMillan to sit on the Pistons bench as an assistant. But when the opportunity to lead a team presented itself, he jumped.
“Immediately I knew that [Detroit] fit Monty [Williams],” McMillan said during Motor City Cruise media day. “… This is a place where I felt I belong, with coach. When he trusted me with this opportunity, I couldn’t think of a better place to start as a head coach.”
That trust shined through Sunday in his first game as a head coach, leading his team to a double-digit victory on the road against their in-state rival.
Jared Rhoden, who is on a two-way contract with the Pistons, scored 36 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Cruise. While he may be away with the NBA group at some points throughout the G League season, he looks to work as a high-volume scorer and primary option for the Cruise when he is in uniform.
Rhoden and his teammates waited patiently for McMillan to enter the locker room after his first win as head coach, dousing him with a celebratory water bottle shower.
“That’s an identity win. The first one’s always the best one,” McMillan told his team in the locker room Sunday. “Now the next one is going to be the best one. From you guys talking to each other, the spirit was where it needed to be. We represented our home town Detroit, the Pistons, everybody with the way that we want to play. We established ourselves today.”
The Cruise have an opportunity to get that next win Tuesday during their home opener against the Iowa Wolves at Wayne State Fieldhouse tipping off at 7 p.m. ET.