The Milwaukee Bucks will not compete for the 2023 NBA championship. There’s a whoooooole lot more behind why that is (you can read up on it here and here, among other places), but eyes are squarely focused first on head coach Mike Budenholzer. Coach Bud, one of the best coaches in Bucks franchise history, a champion, and boasting a resume that suggests that enshrinement in Springfield is perhaps in his future, is under fire once again. He made some...questionable...decisions in the Bucks’ 5-game series loss to the Miami Heat, and as a result the temperature on his seat is rising steadily.
“Mike Budenholzer’s status as Bucks head coach is very much shaky, there are questions across the organization… I’m told Budenholzer has two years and $16 million left on his contract.”— The Rally (@TheRally) April 27, 2023
NBA Insider @ShamsCharania reports on Milwaukee following its disappointing playoff exit. pic.twitter.com/WhmEtPNR5R
I should get one thing out of the way: Mike Budenholzer’s performance as head coach is not the reason the Bucks fell short of their goal this postseason. Coach Bud did not miss free throws, nor did he use telekinesis to guide the ball into the hoop when Miami would take a contested three, nor did he personally bruise Giannis Antetokounmpo’s backside. That being said, Mike Budenholzer’s performance is a reason the Bucks fell short of their goal, and a pretty glaring one at that. He influenced the decision to have Jrue Holiday cover Jimmy Butler (instead of Giannis), he made the call to sub out Brook Lopez on the game-tying lob attempt, and he
failed to did not get a timeout called at the end of regulation or overtime in that fateful Game Five.
So it seems that the #FireBud crowd will finally get their wish, with plenty of evidence to justify the move. The main question becomes...then what? Who replaces Mike Budenholzer as the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that is firmly entrenched in their current construction around Giannis Antetokounmpo and has limited avenues and assets to change? There is no easy answer to this question, despite what folks on Twitter might say.
Does that mean that the team shouldn’t part ways with Coach Bud? Not at all! All good things must come to an end, and while the Coach Bud Era was undoubtedly a good thing (banners fly forever, 2021 is no exception), it’s entirely possible that his tenure has run its course. No, the point of asking the follow-up question about who follows – and what success they would find that Budenholzer could not – is that there is no clear alternative. There is no obvious candidate waiting in the wings, biding their time to pounce on the opportunity to lead the Milwaukee Bucks back to the NBA Finals. The Bucks are going to have to go find one, or else risk simply shuffling around the team’s weaknesses with a lateral move.