The Milwaukee Bucks have fired head coach Mike Budenholzer, the team announced Thursday. The decision comes on the heels of Milwaukee's embarrassing first-round defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat. Milwaukee, the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA playoffs, became the first No. 1 seed since the first round moved to a seven-game format to be eliminated in five or fewer games. The Bucks blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads in both Game 4 and 5 of their first-round series against the Heat. They were the sixth No. 1 seed to lose a first-round series in NBA history.
Budenholzer took over the Bucks before the 2018-19 season, and he immediately turned them into championship contenders. The Bucks were a No. 8 seed in the year before he arrived, under previous head coach Jason Kidd. They immediately jumped to No. 1 in his first season, where they remained in his second. The Bucks won the championship in 2021, Budenholzer's third season, and may have won another last season if Khris Middleton had remained healthy in the playoffs. Instead, the Bucks have moved on after five years with Budenholzer at the helm.
Budenholzer is widely credited for creating the system that helped turn the Bucks into perennial contenders, an extension of his successful run as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks during the mid-2010s. When Milwaukee hired him, he prioritized 3-point shooting in order to space the floor properly around Giannis Antetokounmpo. The result was two MVP awards. He also instituted the drop-coverage scheme that made the Bucks one of the most consistently strong defensive teams in basketball, and in the process nearly turned Brook Lopez into a Defensive Player of the Year.
However, that scheme proved to be a double-edged sword. Budenholzer has widely been criticized for his inability to adjust in the postseason. Jimmy Butler carved up their drop-coverage in the first round, and other opposing stars have done the same through the years. Further, Budenholzer's decision not to call timeouts at the end of regulation or overtime in Milwaukee's season-ending loss to the Heat were ridiculed as they prevented the Bucks from putting up potential outcome-altering shots.
Many around the NBA expected Budenholzer to be fired if Milwaukee had come up short in the 2021 playoffs, when they ultimately won the title. Rick Carlisle was rumored to be his replacement, but as soon the Bucks survived their second-round encounter with the Brooklyn Nets, Carlisle took over the Indiana Pacers. Several weeks later, the Bucks were champions.
But now, with Milwaukee's roster aging and a historic first-round loss in the rearview mirror, the Bucks have decided to make a change. Budenholzer is officially out as their head coach, and the search to replace him begins now.