The Bucks may have had a disappointing season with only 44 wins, a first-round exit and a midseason coach firing. However, they have taken a step forward on Thursday, as the franchise officially announced the hiring of former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.
Budenholzer spent the last five seasons with the Hawks, where he recorded a 213-197 record. Atlanta made the playoffs in four of his five seasons, which has to be music to Milwaukee's ears. The Bucks want to continue winning and Budenholzer can do that for them.
"We are thrilled to welcome Mike Budenholzer as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks," said Bucks GM Jon Horst. "Mike has played a key role in building successful teams throughout his career. He's widely respected and has shown a special ability to teach and develop players. His leadership, basketball intellect, championship-level experience and communication skills make him the right fit to take our team to the next level."
Budenholzer reportedly met with the Toronto Raptors about their vacant head coaching position on Monday, but did not receive an offer.
According to ESPN, Budenholzer met with Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo and teammate Khris Middleton on Wednesday morning, and his representatives hammered out a deal by Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm extremely grateful to the Bucks ownership group and Jon Horst to be named the next head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks," Budenholzer said. "There are terrific people throughout the organization and together we have a tremendous opportunity to take the Bucks to the next level. I look forward to working with our group of young and exciting players and helping us evolve in many ways to succeed on the court. The venues are also in place with an incredible, new state-of-the art arena and first-class Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. The tremendously supportive fans in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin are waiting and ready. Now it's up to us to put all the pieces together, and I can't wait to get started."
What Budenholzer brings to the Bucks is a modern system. The biggest criticism of former coach, Jason Kidd, was that his system was overly aggressive on defense and didn't fit today's era of basketball. Under Budenholzer, the Hawks were known for being one of the most consistent teams in the league before the organization decided to bottom out and play for the lottery last season. In prior years, they were well coached and always had a good defense.
If the Bucks defense improves under Budenholzer like everybody expects it to, then Milwaukee is going to be a strong challenger in the East. Giannis Antetokounmpo already raises the Bucks' ceiling on his own, but Milwaukee's average defense held the team back. This hire should address the Bucks' biggest weakness, while allowing Antetokounmpo to be unleashed on the NBA.
In Atlanta, Budenzholer ran an offense that featured a flurry of 3-point shooters and a rim-attacking point guard. He never had an Antetokounmpo-like talent though, and the idea of him surrounded by nothing but 3-point shooters should be exciting for everybody associated with the Bucks. Antetokounmpo has never had the type of spacing he's going to get with Budenholzer. It's going to work, and it's going to unleash the Greek Freak to a whole new level.