ATLANTA—Vacations are overrated in NBA circles.
Former Atlanta Hawks coach and president Mike Budenholzer had only been unemployed a few weeks; but that was apparently long enough for the Milwaukee Bucks, who hired Budenholzer to be their head coach on Thursday, according to an ESPN report.
Budenholzer, who compiled a 213-197 record with Atlanta from 2013-18 (.520 winning percentage), was let to go by Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk last month.
During his time with the club, Budenholzer guided the Hawks to three winning seasons, three playoff berths and one Southeast Division title in 2015—culminating in 60 regular-season wins that year and Atlanta claiming home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference playoffs (losing to Cleveland in the East finals).
The 2014-15 campaign, where Atlanta posted a perfect 17-0 record in January 2015, ended up as a high-water mark for Budenholzer, who served a dual role as president during that period. He would eventually be stripped of that title, shortly after Schlenk assumed control of personnel decisions; and following the Hawks' recently concluded season of 24 wins, the writing was essentially on the wall for Budenholzer.
(On Monday, Atlanta formally hired Philadelphia 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce as head coach.)
However, don't let a sagging finish diminish Budenholzer's overall legacy. His teams were consistently prepared and motivated to do well during the regular season and postseason, even if the Hawks, perception-wise, had less talent than other clubs.
Budenholzer has also carved out a reputation for being a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches, given his capacity for exposing the other teams' on-court weaknesses.
Perhaps that's why Budenholzer was a slam-dunk candidate for Milwaukee, even with Dwane Casey (the NBA's reigning 'Coach of the Year' recipient) also on the free-agent market.
With the Bucks, Budenholzer inherits a young and talented team that's seemingly ready to compete for division titles and conference championships.
The core of Giannis Antetokounmpo (per-game averages this season: 26.9 points, 10 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.4 blocks), Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, John Henson, Thon Maker, D.J. Wilson and Malcolm Brodgon are all 29 or under; and with Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak, he may be finally ready to carry the Bucks to unprecedented heights—at least since the days of Sidney Moncrief, Paul Pressey, Terry Cummings, Marques Johnson and Bob Lanier (seven consecutive division titles from 1980-86).