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Hottest Job on the Market: An Early List of Bucks Coaching Candidates

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Two of our favorite Brew Hoop alums talk resumes and philosophies.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

In case you weren’t aware, the Milwaukee Bucks fired their head coach during the season. Joe Prunty took over his duties to close out the year, but the franchise has a decision to make. Who is to be offered the head coaching duties for 2018-19 and beyond? Prunty will be a candidate (if only because he put in the work and deserves to have his name in the hat), but most fans don’t consider him to be a finalist for the role. Yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski gave us a sneak peek at the Bucks’ early list of potential replacements.

No matter who does end up with the job, it’s going to be a veritable mad dash to submit applications. The Milwaukee head coaching vacancy is (or at least should be) the most popular opening of the NBA summer, and the sheer volume of names that are flying back and forth already is too much to keep track of. What are Bucks fans to do (besides contribute to the running list)?

Thankfully, you don’t have to do anything! Locked on Bucks, a mainstay in Milwaukee fans’ podcast rotations thanks to the presence of the eminent blogfather Frank Madden, has got you covered. Former Brew Hoopers Eric Nehm and Eric Buenning got together for a few episodes of the pod, each a must-listen thanks to the depth of analysis of possible candidates to take the captain’s seat on the Bucks’ bench.

Episode 1 (featuring Frank, and focusing a lot on Budenholzer)

Episode 2 (starting from the bottom of the list)

Episode 3 (concluding with some of the league’s hottest assistant coaches)

The Erics discussed Buenning’s extensive research on the available coaching candidates, which we have included here for your perusal and feedback. Everything that follows below the break is a summation of Eric B’s notes; you can follow him, view his original notes, and ask him more in-depth questions at @ericbuenning on Twitter.


What I’d personally like to see in the next Bucks head coach

  • Offensive creativity
  • Flexibility
  • Depth of experience
  • Emphasis on modern philosophies (even if not carried out to its most extreme)
  • Big on relationships and development
  • Competitive, but generally positive
  • Defensively realistic
  • Specifically not an asshole

Additionally, nearly all of the candidates have been included in a previous Kevin Arnovitz list of head coach candidates. His annual article is a good starting point.

Nick Nurse (50)

  • 12 years coaching in Europe. BBL COY 99-00 and 2003-2004. Champion 1996, 2000
  • Iowa Energy, 2007-2011. Champion 2011. COY 2011

- Went from 2nd worst offense to 4th best in his second year

- Never worse than 7th in ORtg with Energy and RGV after that, including being 1st twice

  • Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 2011-2013. Champion 2013.

- First coach in D-League history to win a title with two different teams.

- Led league in threes both seasons.

- Midrange shot % has gone down significantly, numbers vary based on timing of articles

- No worse than 9th in ORtg since Nurse arrived

- Playing at their fastest pace in 2017-2018 since his arrival (13th)

- Went from worst AST% in 2016-2017 to 11th in 2017-2018

The long, strange journey of a Raptors’ assistant – Sportsnet.ca

The Raptors Remade Their Mind-Set, Not Their Roster. It’s Working. – New York Times

These Raptors might be real and only getting better – ESPN.com

How the Raptors got sick of playoff letdowns and broke all their bad habits – CBS Sports

Nick Nurse: Creating success through experimentation – Daily Times Herald

Chris Finch (48)

  • 12 seasons in several European stops, with titles and some unsuccessful stops.

- BBL COY 1998-1999.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 2009-2011. COY and Champion in 2009-2010 season.

- 1st and 3rd in ORtg in two seasons.

  • British National Team Coach, 2009 EuroBasket, 2011 EuroBasket, 2012 Olympics
  • Houston Rockets, 2011-2016, Associate Head Coach 2014-2016.

- ORtg never lower than 13th.

- Helped bring 20th ranked Nuggets offense to 5th in one season.

- Credits pushing the pace, getting the ball to and through Nikola Jokic early and often for success.

- Helped improve ORtg from 26th in 2016-2017 to 9th this season.

- Emphasizes letting players play both with freedom and to their strengths.

- Enjoy playing with randomness, sometimes calling plays and sometimes playing with flow.

Pelicans Assistant Coach Chris Finch Discusses New Role in NOLA – Bourbon Street Shots

Chris Fleming (48)

  • QTSV (Germany) 2000-2008, Brose Bamberg Baskets 2008-2014, and German National Team 2015-2017.

- 4x German Cup winner 2008, 2010-2012

- 4x German League Champion 2010-2013

- 3x German SuperCup winner 2010-2012

- German League COY 2011

  • Denver Nuggets assistant 2015-2016

- In an interview, outlines his philosophies of coaching the game, detailed below:

A look at Denver Nuggets assistant, Chris Fleming’s offensive philosophy – Denver Stiffs

- Defensively believes in drilling in the scheme and leaving no gray areas. Doesn’t want players to think a lot on defense.

- On offense, believes in things like ball movement, playing in space with purpose, and then making their own decisions from there.

- Motion rules, but keys on how players play after the set breaks down or finishes/gives freedom.

Igor Kokoskov (46)

(Well...)

  • Missouri Assistant Coach 1999-2000

- First European full-time Assistant in NCAAM basketball

  • Seats on several benches, notably:

- Detroit Pistons Assistant 2003-2008 (NBA Champion 2004)

- Serbia & Montenegro National Team Assistant 2004-2005

- Georgia National Team 2008-2015

- Phoenix Suns Assistant 2008-2013

  • Top 10 ORtg 4 of 5 seasons, including 1st twice

- CSKA Moscow Assistant 2012-2013

- Slovenian National Team

  • Gold Medal in 2017 EuroBasket

- Utah Jazz Assistant, 2014-present.

  • Top 5 NetRtg the last two seasons

Igor Kokoskov - the mastermind behind Slovenia’s golden run – FIBA.basketball

Nate Tibbetts (40)

  • Coach of Sioux Falls Skyforce and Tulsa 66ers from 2005-2011.

- Multiple playoff appearances.

- Coached Team USA in 2011 PanAm Games.

- Led 66ers to D-League Finals in his first season

- Big time player development chops. Grinder (per Arnovitz). Generally tasked with Blazers’ offense. High praise from Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and Wes Matthews.

- Top 11 ORtg 4 of the last 5 years, top half of the league in pace 4 of last 5

David Vanterpool (45)

  • Player, CSKA Moscow 2005-2007; Coach, CSKA Moscow, 2007-2012.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder Pro Scout/Front Office, 2010-2012
  • Portland Trailblazers Assistant, 2012-present.

- Largely credited with the development of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum

- De facto defensive coordinator (8th in DRtg this season)

Mind over matter: Damian Lillard and the key to his late-game success – NBC Sports Northwest

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his defense make a playoff vow: ‘I’m going to show up’ – OregonLive.com

David Fizdale (43)

(Well...)

Very relatable to many players around the league. Big fan in LeBron James. Straight shooter.

- Top 12 ORtg 5 of 8 years, once without the “Big Three”

- Top 13 DRtg 7 of 8 years

- Only budged ORtg up from 22nd to 19th, but went from 25th in 3PA to 14th in his first season (18.5 3PA in year before hiring to 26.5 3PA in his first year).

- Increased team’s AST% from 20th (56.2) to 12th (58.4) in first season as well

Jim Boylen (53)

Dunc’d On interview, big on terminology, if that’s your thing. Fringe candidate.

Becky Hammon (41), Ime Udoka (40), Monty Williams (46)

Great at managing relationships, from my understanding, but that may be their best strength currently. Likely not enough to be more than fringe candidates for now.


Shouts out to Eric Nehm and Eric Buenning for going into such depth on what will likely be the Bucks’ most important decision for the next decade, and special thanks to Eric B, who was kind enough to provide his notes as a resource for you to follow along with their episodes of Locked on Bucks. Be sure to reach out to them on Twitter (they both love it), and let us know what you think in the comments!