GM Jon Horst Explains Bucks’ Coaching Change

Bucks general manager Jon Horst said the team’s expectations changed after the decision was made to hire Adrian Griffin as head coach, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Horst met with media members before tonight’s game to explain why management believed a coaching change was necessary even though the team was off to a 30-13 start.

Horst noted that when Griffin got the job in early June, the roster was filled with uncertainties, which made having a first-time head coach seem more plausible. Things changed throughout the summer as Milwaukee was able to reach contract agreements with Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez and then trade for Damian Lillard, which led to Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s extension. With all those pieces securely in place, the front office felt renewed urgency to get the most of out of its championship window.

“It was a tough job and a great opportunity – both things were true – when we hired Griff,” Horst said. “The dynamics and the things that changed after that I think created even more of an urgency and even more so. These are special opportunities. The talent became even more special. The commitment to the team even more significant. And I think that increased the urgency.

“It’s not because I’m afraid to be wrong. I’ve been wrong many a times. I believe Griff still is a head coach. Guy’s 30-13. It made this such a tough decision. This is an assessment and an evaluation for myself, (team president Peter Feigin) and our ownership group in how do we give this team the best resources to maximize this window. It’s way more about that and way less about what Griff did or didn’t do.”

Horst referenced the awkward situation that can develop when a major move of this type is announced on social media. He met with the players before today’s shootaround to explain the reasons why a coaching change was deemed necessary.

Horst also expressed confidence in interim coach Joe Prunty, noting that he has been in this situation before and is “fully aware” that the organization is in the process of hiring a new head coach. Horst refused to comment on Doc Rivers, who reportedly reached an agreement in principle to take over the team, but indicated that he wants to fill the position as quickly as possible.

“What we’re looking for now is a path to go forward and maximize this group from a leadership perspective, from an experience perspective,” Horst said. “We want to try to bring in a coach that can really take us to the next level where we think we can go with this group. That’s not just about coaching. The players have to be better, they have to improve, my group has to continue figuring out how to improve the roster, but we think coaching is an element for us to get better.”

Horst also addressed the issue of having to pay three head coaches, as Mike Budenholzer had two years remaining on his contract when he was fired in May. Horst admitted that it’s part of the “hard decisions” that go into running a team and credited the owners for their commitment to winning.

Horst expressed confidence that the new head coach can fix the defensive shortcomings – and other issues that developed under Griffin – and put the team in position for a long playoff run.

“Although it’s a condensed period of time calendar-wise I think in the world of the NBA and what in particular our really smart, professional and mature players can do, a great coaching staff around them, I believe that there is enough time for them to find an identity, find a rhythm together and continue to grow,” he said. “So, it may feel shortened but the things that happen in the NBA happen quick all the time and transition happens all the time and I think we’ll be well adapted to it.”

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