The Milwaukee Bucks’ season may have ended only recently, but the team is already starting to wash that residual Jason Kidd funk off.
News broke Wednesday night that the team has reached an agreement with Mike Budenholzer to become its next head coach. Budenholzer is probably best known as the former head coach in Atlanta, where the Hawks reached the playoffs in four of his five years — and made it past the first round twice, a feat that’s eluded Milwaukee since 2001 (the longest such streak in the NBA). In fact, Budenholzer was named the league‘s Coach of the Year in 2015 after leading the Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals.
But perhaps more importantly, he comes well groomed. Before taking over in Atlanta, Budenholzer spent 18 seasons as an assistant coach in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, a mad genius who may the greatest head coach in the history of the game. (Along the way, Budenholzer picked up four rings with the Spurs, so there’s also that.)This is an excellent move for the Bucks. Not only is Budenholzer more than proven, but he’s also already won the support of two of the Bucks’ brightest stars. Word has it that Budenholzer was officially offered the job hours after a breakfast meeting with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Obviously those two hold some sway and undoubtedly greased the wheels a bit to help bring Budenholzer on board.
But beyond that, Budenholzer seems to be a perfect fit for the Bucks. With Atlanta, he was the architect of one of the most tenacious defenses in the NBA. Now he’s coming to a team reputed for its length and shot-blocking ability. Additionally, Budenholzer made the most of the Hawks’ deep bench, leaving no player unused in his grand scheme. And largely his grand scheme worked, until Atlanta decided to hit its own reset button.
Plus, there’s the pedigree. Any time spent under Gregg Popovich is invaluable, and Budenholzer spent 18 damn years in San Antonio. He’s one of the most underrated minds in basketball, and the Bucks seem to be the ideal team for a coach like him: an unconventional egghead with a knack for stopping shots.
It should be noted one of the candidates for the job was Becky Hammon, another Spurs assistant and a former WNBA star who became the league’s first female coach in 2014, when San Antonio hired her onto its staff. Hammon’s interview with the Bucks interview also made her the first woman to interview for an NBA head coaching spot — so even if Budenholzer totally shits the bed, the team’s search at least helped to usher in a more progressive NBA.
But my guess is that Budenholzer won’t shit the bed. Even after years in the NBA’s cellar, the Bucks have spent long enough on the cusp of greatness. Jason Kidd and his lieutenant Joe Prunty nearly took them to that elusive second round; just imagine what someone like Mike Budenholzer might do.