“I don’t think as a team we made the right [adjustment], or we didn’t make as many adjustments as we could have against [Jimmy Butler]… For me, I think this has been the worst postseason ever.”
When face-of-the-team Giannis Antetokounmpo said that after the Bucks were eliminated in five games by the Miami Heat, the writing was on the wall for coach Mike Budenholzer. While he had won an NBA title just two years before, Budenholzer’s stubborn reputation on postseason adjustments — sticking with single-covering Butler, holding onto timeouts in Game 5 — continued to be a cloud over him.
Thursday, the Bucks fired Budenholzer, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and soon confirmed by the team.
A letter from Bucks General Manager Jon Horst and Team President Peter Feigin. pic.twitter.com/8Y8t8V918x
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 4, 2023
“The decision to make this change was very difficult,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement. “Bud helped lead our team for five incredible seasons, to the Bucks’ first title in 50 years, and into an era of sustained success. We are grateful for the culture of winning and leadership that Bud helped create in Milwaukee.
“This is an opportunity for us to refocus and reenergize our efforts as we continue building toward our next championship season.”
Budenholzer reportedly has two years, $16 million left on his contract. His brother was killed in a car accident during the playoffs, something that was not disclosed until after the team was eliminated.
While the Bucks will conduct a coaching search, the most likely replacement for Budenholzer is a guy already sitting on their bench — assistant Charles Lee. He has been a top assistant and interviewed for other head coaching jobs. This would be a decision that gets run by Antetokounmpo and other veterans on the team, but it could be a way of making a change while keeping a comfort level with someone they know and the players’ respect.
Finding a new coach is on top of a busy offseason for Horst that includes:
• Re-signing center and defensive anchor Brook Lopez, who is a free agent.
• Khris Middleton also can be a free agent, he has a $40.4 million player option (he could want the security of multiple years over that one big check.
• Both Jrue Holiday and Antetokounmpo become extension eligible before next season as well (Antetokounmpo is not expected to sign an extension with two years left on his contract, instead hanging back to see how things play out).
The Bucks have big decisions to make, starting with their next coach.
Budenholzer’s name will — and should — come up in coaching searches, especially for franchises looking to grow young players and develop a winning culture. Budenholzer is very good at that. However, with two years left on his contract, Budenholzer may not be in a rush to jump back into the action, preferring to wait for the right job.