5:06pm: The Bucks have made the news official in a press release.
“The decision to make this change was very difficult,” Bucks GM Jon Horst said in the 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… This is an opportunity for us to refocus and reenergize our efforts as we continue building toward our next championship season.”
4:57pm: Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has been let go by the team, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Budenholzer had two years left on his contract with Milwaukee.
The 58-24 Bucks, owners of the top record in the league this season, were defeated in five games by the eighth-seeded Heat in a massive first round upset.
A perfect storm of circumstances led to the Bucks’ early ouster after they had been widely considered the team to beat in the East this season. All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had to depart the first game of the series with a back injury and missed the subsequent two bouts. He played well in the fourth and fifth contests, both losses.
All-NBA Miami swingman Jimmy Butler, meanwhile, enjoyed the series of his life, averaging 37.6 PPG on .597/.444/.708 shooting. He also chipped in 6.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 1.8 SPG. The Heat were without their second-leading scorer, guard Tyler Herro, following the first half of Game 1 in the series.
Budenholzer’s decision-making during the series came under scrutiny in its immediate aftermath, particularly his decision to not leave Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Brook Lopez in to wall off the paint from Butler during the closing seconds of regulation in Game 5. Instead, against smaller Bucks guards, Butler pulled off a miracle shot thanks to a perfect Gabe Vincent inbound pass, which propelled the Heat to an eventual overtime victory. Budenholzer was also criticized for not employing all his timeouts during the closing minutes of that must-win contest.
Following Milwaukee’s elimination, former Bucks assistant Darvin Ham disclosed that one of Budenholzer’s brothers passed away before Game 4 of the series.
After serving as an assistant for the Spurs under head coach Gregg Popovich from 1996-2013, Budenholzer took his first head coaching assignment with the Hawks for the 2013/14 season. Budenholzer led the club as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in ’14/15 and won his first Coach of the Year award for his efforts. He also served as the team president from 2015-18.
Budenholzer joined the Bucks in the summer of 2018, immediately leading the club to the Eastern Conference Finals and earning Coach of the Year honors in his first year. Under his stewardship, Antetokounmpo won two MVP awards, and Milwaukee won its first title since 1971, beating the Suns in six games in 2021.
Budenholzer owns a lifetime regular season coaching record of 484-317, having led the Bucks to a 271-120 (.693) record over the last five seasons. His career postseason record is 56-48, with a 39-26 mark for Milwaukee.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link), replacing Budenholzer will be among many items on a busy summer agenda for the Bucks. Lopez will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, three-time All-Star swingman Khris Middleton could join him on the open market if he declines his 2023/24 player option, and Antetkounmpo is eligible for what promises to be a pricey extension.