Mike Budenholzer

Budenholzer, Nurse, Young Among Suns’ HC Candidates

Following their dismissal of head coach Monty Williams on Saturday, the Suns are putting together a list of candidates for the vacancy that includes Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse, and Kevin Young, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). According to Haynes, that list of candidates will continue to grow.

[RELATED: 2023 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

It’s unclear whether Phoenix has lined up interviews yet with Budenholzer, Nurse, or Young, but the team won’t need to seek permission to speak to any of them. Budenholzer and Nurse were recently let go by their teams, while Young is the associate head coach on the Suns’ own staff, having served as Williams’ top assistant.

Budenholzer has a career regular season record 484-317 (.604) as a head coach, with a 56-48 (.538) mark in the playoffs. He coached the Hawks from 2013-18 and the Bucks from 2018-23, winning a title in Milwaukee in 2021 and earning Coach of the Year honors in both 2015 and 2019.

Nurse, who is coming off a five-year stint as head coach of the Raptors, won a championship in 2019 and was named Coach of the Year in 2020. He had a 227-163 (.582) regular season record and a 25-16 (.610) postseason mark in Toronto.

Young coached multiple G League teams and was an assistant coach with the Sixers before joining the Suns in 2020.

Marc Stein reported on Saturday that the Suns will also look into the possibility of trying to lure Tyronn Lue away to the Clippers, but it’s unclear if Phoenix will have any success on that front, Stein writes in his latest Substack story.

Lue remains under contract with Los Angeles and reportedly has the support of team owner Steve Ballmer, according to Stein. As such, it seems unlikely that the Clippers would let him leave for a division rival without receiving some form of compensation. For what it’s worth though, there has been chatter in league circles about the Suns’ interest in Lue for several days, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

Monty Williams Out As Suns’ Head Coach

MAY 14: The Suns made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve parted ways with Williams. Jones issued a statement accepting responsibility for the decision, despite reporting indicating that it was Ishbia’s call (as detailed below).

“Monty has been foundational to our success over the past four seasons,” Jones said in a statement. “We are filled with gratitude for everything Monty has contributed to the Suns and to the Valley community. While it was difficult for me to make this decision, I look forward to continuing the work to build a championship team.”

Williams could become a “prominent candidate” in the Raptors‘ coaching search, Wojnarowski writes in a full story.

MAY 13: The Suns have decided to make a coaching change after their second-round loss to Denver, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The team has dismissed Monty Williams, who had served as head coach since 2019.

New owner Mat Ishbia made the decision to fire Williams, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). As first reported by John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 and confirmed by Wojnarowski, Williams still had three years and more than $20MM left on his contract.

Williams compiled a 194-115 record in his four years in Phoenix and took the team to the 2021 NBA Finals. He also earned Coach of the Year honors in 2022.

However, Ishbia opted to go in a different direction after the team was eliminated from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion in back-to-back second rounds. The Suns lost their last game of the season at home by 25 points this spring and by 33 points last year.

With Kevin Durant and Devin Booker under long-term contracts, Charania believes the Suns’ vacancy instantly becomes the most attractive in the league (Twitter link). Ishbia and general manager James Jones are focused on building a championship roster this summer, and they want to find the right leader to guide it.

The Suns will explore whether it’s possible to land current Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, tweets Marc Stein. Lue stated that he wants to return as the team’s head coach after L.A. was knocked out of the playoffs last month, and the organization hasn’t indicated that it’s considering a change. Lue signed a five-year deal when he joined the Clippers in 2020, so he’s under contract for two more years.

One potential candidate to replace Williams is Mike Budenholzer, who was dismissed by the Bucks earlier this month after his team’s first-round loss, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. A report on Friday from Jake Fischer indicated that Milwaukee was closely monitoring Williams’ status in Phoenix, so it’s possible that the two NBA Finals coaches from 2021 will end up exchanging teams.

Toronto and Detroit are the other franchises currently in the market for a head coach, and Williams may emerge as a candidate for those jobs as well. The Pistons reportedly scheduled interviews with their three finalists this week, but James L. Edwards of The Athletic suggests that the team may reach out to Williams before making a decision (Twitter link).

Mike Budenholzer Fired By Bucks

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.

Mike Budenholzer’s Brother Passed Away Before Game 4

Rightly or wrongly, head coaches often come under the microscope after disappointing ends to seasons. That has been the case with Mike Budenholzer after the top-seeded Bucks lost their first-round series to the Heat in five games.

Unfortunately, Budenholzer and his family were going through a terrible personal tragedy in the series — one of his three brothers died just before Game 4, the coach confirmed via a spokesperson to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Team sources tell Vardon that Budenholzer’s brother passed away due to injuries from a car accident.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham, a longtime former assistant under Budenholzer, was the first to publicly disclose the death at his press conference ahead of Game 6 on Friday night. Through the team spokesperson, Budenholzer informed Vardon that he “loves and respects” Ham and was comfortable confirming the news.

We send our condolences to the Budenholzer family and their friends.

Central Notes: Budenholzer, Pistons, Duren, P. Williams

Mike Budenholzer‘s job status appears to be tenuous, but the Bucks are expected to take their time before determining what to do with their head coach, who still has two years left on his contract, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (YouTube link).

According to Wojnarowski, the Bucks are in “shock” over their first-round loss to the Heat and have been known to be patient under general manager Jon Horst. He also points out that there’s a new ownership group in place, which may complicate matters — Jimmy and Dee Haslam recently bought Marc Lasry‘s stake in the Bucks, which was thought to be about 25 percent.

I think this is a Milwaukee organization that is going to take their time,” Wojnarowski said. “Because here’s the thing… you’ve gotta know who you’re going to bring in. Who is out there at a championship level that you can bring in that’s better than what you know you have? That’s a very short list. … I don’t think there will be a quick resolution in terms of making a decision on Mike Budenholzer’s future.”

Here’s more from the Central:

  • The Pistons finished with the worst record in the NBA in 2022/23 and will have roughly $30MM in cap space this summer. Which of their possible free agents will be retained, and which will be headed out of town? James L. Edwards III tackles that subject for The Athletic, writing that only Isaiah Livers‘ spot with the team is secure — Detroit holds a $1.8MM option for the young forward next season. Of the remaining players who either have team options or are set to hit unrestricted free agency, Edwards places the lowest odds (0-10 percent) on Cory Joseph coming back.
  • Many thought Jalen Duren would spend a good chunk of ’22/23 in the G League — he was the youngest player in the league and was considered a fairly raw prospect. Instead, the 19-year-old center had an excellent rookie season for the Pistons and appears firmly entrenched as a foundational piece, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “That’s one guy I won’t ever put a ceiling on,” GM Troy Weaver said after the season. “As you keep watching him, you just see different things. … He’s a very smart young man. Got tremendous gifts. He’s got a chance to be a big-time player.” As Langlois notes, Duren led all rookies with 3.4 offensive rebounds and 8.9 total rebounds per game. He also averaged 9.1 points while shooting 64.8% from the floor in 67 games (24.9 minutes).
  • There were peaks and valleys during Patrick Williams‘ third season with the Bulls, but the former lottery pick hopes to have a long NBA career and is focused on improving for next season, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “I felt a lot more comfortable, a lot more aggressive but (still) not who I want to be,” Williams said. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to. You’ve got to put the work in to be who you want to be in this league. Obviously, at 21 you’re not going to be the person you’re going to be obviously when you’re 31. … I learned a lot about (myself) personally, about us as a team, about the game, learning how to read the game, how to really dissect the game. When I say I didn’t live up to what I wanted the season to be for me, it wasn’t like it was a terrible season. It’s just there’s more work to be done.”

Fischer’s Latest: Green, Middleton, Budenholzer, Raptors

The Rockets are ready to move past the rebuilding stage and may be willing to include Jalen Green in an offseason trade for veteran help, sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Fischer notes that new head coach Ime Udoka, general manager Rafael Stone and owner Tilman Fertitta all mentioned the team’s available cap space — which could be in the $60MM range — during Udoka’s introductory news conference this week.

The Rockets are determined to upgrade their roster, whether it’s through free agency or the trade market. There have been long-running rumors that Sixers guard James Harden is interested in a return to Houston, and Fischer hears that Bucks wing Khris Middleton was mentioned as another possibility during discussions with coaching candidates. Harden and Middleton both hold player options for next season — Harden is considered likely to opt out and Middleton is a candidate to do so too.

Fischer points out that Udoka was an assistant in Brooklyn when Harden arrived there. He has obviously worked closely with another potential target, Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, who may be made available when he becomes eligible for an extension this offseason.

Green averaged 22.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists during his second NBA season, but he continues to be plagued by efficiency questions, as he shot just 41.6% from the field and 33.8% from three-point range. He was billed as a potential scoring champion when the Rockets drafted him in 2021, but it appears the organization may no longer be content to wait for the development of Green and its other young players.

Here are several more rumors from Fischer:

  • Nick Nurse was considered to be a strong candidate in the Rockets‘ coaching search after he parted ways with the Raptors last week, but he never figured into the team’s interview process. Fischer states that former Lakers coach Frank Vogel and ex-Hornets coach James Borrego were the other leading contenders along with Udoka.
  • Mike Budenholzer‘s job may be in jeopardy after the Bucks‘ early playoff exit, but Fischer doesn’t believe a coaching change is a sure thing. He notes that the push to replace Budenholzer before Milwaukee won the title two years ago largely came from co-owner Marc Lasry, who sold his stake in the team earlier this month. Fischer also points out that assistant Darvin Ham would have been a leading contender to replace Budenholzer at the time, but he has gone on to become head coach of the Lakers. Current assistant Charles Lee is a finalist for the opening in Detroit, and Fischer isn’t convinced that Milwaukee will make a coaching move without an obvious replacement for Budenholzer.
  • Sources tell Fischer that the Raptors are planning a thorough coaching search that may extend through the draft combine in mid-May. Several potential candidates were reported Thursday night, and Fischer hears that former Toronto assistant Sergio Scariolo, who runs the Spanish national team, could get an interview as well. Scariolo currently coaches Virtus Bologna in Italy.

Mike Budenholzer’s Job With Bucks In Jeopardy?

Head coach Mike Budenholzer has led the Bucks to a 271-120 regular season record in his five seasons at the helm, which is the best mark in the NBA over that span.

Under Budenholzer, the Bucks won their first championship in 50 years in 2020/21. Milwaukee once again had the best record in the league this season at 58-24.

However, Budenholzer’s late-game decision-making in the team’s first-round loss to the Heat has been called into question. He didn’t use a timeout in the middle of a 13-0 run by the Heat at the end of Game 4.

He also didn’t use his final timeout to advance the ball with the game tied with 0.5 seconds left at the end of regulation in Game 5, or use one at the end of overtime with 11 seconds left down two points — both possessions culminated in the Bucks failing to get a shot off.

As Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes, Budenholzer also continued to use Jrue Holiday to defend Jimmy Butler in the final two games with Giannis Antetokounmpo back in the lineup, even though putting the two-time MVP on Butler is partly how the Bucks swept the Heat in the playoffs two years ago. Butler was great all series, but particularly in Games 4 and 5, when he averaged 49.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block on .590/.333/.741 shooting in 43.4 minutes.

Out of respect, you gotta let the coach make that adjustment,” Antetokounmpo said of guarding Butler. “We have our best defender on him. There are conversations with Jrue. Whenever he gets tired, I can take him, but he’s so competitive. He plays so hard. He wants to take the challenge. But at the end of the day, I wish I could guard him more, for sure.”

When Nehm asked Budenholzer if he viewed the season as a failure, he framed it in slightly different terms.

This team has incredibly high expectations,” Budenholzer said. “(General manager) Jon Horst has put together an amazing roster. The ownership has done what they’re supposed to do. We made a push, we were the No. 1 seed, but all that matters is the playoffs.

And so, I think we’re just disappointed. I would not use that word (failure). We’re disappointed, we’re frustrated. It hurts. But I said it all year, we love this team, we love these guys, I believe in ’em, we believe in ’em, we didn’t get it done tonight. So, to me, disappointed, hurt, frustrated, I think is more characteristic of how we feel about tonight.”

People around the league think Budenholzer will eventually be fired following the five-game series, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who said on his podcast that he believes that’s the most likely outcome.

There’s some losses for which there’s just no going back,” Lowe said (hat tip to RealGM). “You cannot come back the same team. And the Bucks cannot come back the same team from this. I don’t know how it will go…

League insiders, you don’t really have to be an insider, but league insiders are extremely skeptical that Mike Budenholzer can return as head coach of the Bucks after this. He has, according to [Adrian Wojnarowski], his last extension which happened after they won the title runs through the ’24/25 season, so he has two years left. I just don’t see any coming back from it. It’s just logic.

I think the league insiders are going to be right. I just don’t see any other way.”

Bucks Notes: First-Round Loss, Budenholzer, Free Agency, Antetokounmpo, Crowder

After winning a league-best 58 games during the regular season, the Bucks could only manage one victory against a determined Heat team in the postseason, writes Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The betting favorite to win the title heading into the playoffs saw its season end in shocking fashion Wednesday night with an epic fourth quarter collapse and an overtime loss.

“For me, I think this has been the worst postseason ever,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t think, you know, like we have a number in there, like every other team has a number (of games to win a title) like 16, 15, 14, and this like, we’re stuck at 15. I don’t think we’ve ever, as long as I’ve been in the playoffs, been stuck – maybe we lost in the first round – but not stuck at 15. Which is kind of hard to deal with.”

The back injury that Antetokounmpo suffered in Game 1 affected the direction of the series, but there were plenty of other explanations for Milwaukee’s first-round defeat. There were turnovers, missed free throws, rebounding lapses and a lack of focus at critical times.

Several players refused to talk to the media after being eliminated, but those who did expressed severe disappointment.

“I feel like we had the roster to do more than what we’ve done,” Jae Crowder said. “We came up short. Obviously we had a championship in mind and that’s the only conversation we always had, is championship. So we came up short big time. And we failed.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Among the lapses were questionable coaching decisions by Mike Budenholzer, who was heavily criticized in the press and on social media following Wednesday’s loss. Budenholzer failed to call a timeout after Jimmy Butler tied the game with 0.5 seconds left in regulation or as the Bucks failed to get off a shot as the final buzzer sounded in overtime. There were rumors that Budenholzer might be fired before the Bucks won the title in 2021, and Tim Cato of The Athletic considers it unlikely that he’ll survive Wednesday’s performance.
  • Brook Lopez, who will be a free agent, and Khris Middleton, who has a $40.4MM player option, will be the names to watch this offseason, per Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link). If the front office brings back both players, the Bucks will be a tax team for the fourth straight year.
  • Antetokounmpo will become eligible for an extension in September, but that could just be a formality, according to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Gozlan expects the two-time MVP to wait and seek a new long-term contract once his current deal expires.
  • Crowder is among several free agent bench players who face uncertain futures this summer. After the Bucks gave up five second-round picks to acquire him in February, he got into just three games and played 40 total minutes during the series, notes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link).

Mike Brown Wins Coaches Association Award

Kings coach Mike Brown has been voted the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

It’s no surprise, considering Sacramento just ended the longest playoff drought among the four major sports leagues. The Kings went 48-34 in Brown’s first season as their head coach and will enter the postseason as the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed.

The Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer, Thunder‘s Mark Daigneault, Celtics Joe Mazzulla and Knicks Tom Thibodeau also received votes, per Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

The Suns’ Monty Williams had received the award in each of the last two seasons.

Brown was hired by the Kings after six-year stint as an assistant coach with the Warriors.

Mike Brown, Mike Budenholzer Named Coaches Of The Month

Kings head coach Mike Brown and Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer have been named the league’s coaches of the month for February, the NBA has announced (Twitter link).

Led by All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, Budenholzer’s Bucks are currently at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 45-17 record. Milwaukee is in the midst of a 16-game winning streak and enjoyed a spotless February, going 10-0.

Brown led Sacramento to an 8-4 record across the month. The team is currently on a four-game win streak, while top players De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis both played in this month’s All-Star Game.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and Suns head coach Monty Williams were runners-up to Brown in the Western Conference, while Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau were also nominated in the East, the league added (via Twitter).

Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL tweets that Brown is the first Sacramento coach since Rick Adelman during the 2003/04 season to earn a Coach of the Month honor. Given that his 36-25 Kings club appeared poised to make its first return to the postseason in nearly that long, he certainly seems worthy of the award.