Community Shootaround: Can Budenholzer Return To Hawks?

Mike Budenholzer has interviewed for two of the NBA’s open head coaching positions so far this offseason, meeting with the Suns and Knicks about their vacancies. Budenholzer withdrew from consideration for the Phoenix job, but is reportedly interested in landing in New York.

The only problem? Budenholzer already has a coaching job, with two years and about $13-14MM remaining on his contract with the Hawks. While Atlanta has been willing to let Budenholzer interview for other jobs, the team has maintained that it’s open to bringing back its head coach for the 2018/19 season.

Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is skeptical, writing today that he finds it hard to believe that Budenholzer could remain the Hawks’ head coach going forward. As Cunningham outlines, Budenholzer wasn’t thrilled to lose personnel decision-making power to GM Travis Schlenk a year ago, and isn’t all that interested in working through a long rebuilding process in Atlanta.

A person familiar with Budenholzer’s plans tells Cunningham that the head coach would be ready to return to Atlanta if he doesn’t get another job, and the Hawks have maintained that they could be on board with that scenario too. But Cunningham views that scenario as untenable, since it’d be hard for Hawks players to commit to a lame-duck coach who may have his eye on other jobs.

The best-case scenario for both Budenholzer and the Hawks would for him to find another situation he likes, and for that team to offer Atlanta a fair compensation package to let him out of his current contract. That way, Budenholzer could move on to a more favorable situation and Atlanta’s new management group could hand-pick a new head coach after having gotten out from under Budenholzer’s contract.

If Budenholzer doesn’t get an offer though, or if a team that wants him isn’t willing to give the Hawks compensation to let him go, the situation could get messy. It wouldn’t be unprecedented if Budenholzer ultimately remains in Atlanta – Dave Joerger signed an extension with the Grizzlies in 2014 after they let him interview with the Timberwolves – but it wouldn’t be ideal either.

What do you think? Can the Hawks bring Budenholzer back? Will they have the opportunity to make that decision, or will he be offered a job by another team? Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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