It is done. After five seasons at the helm of the Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Mike Budenholzer has been released from his position.
BREAKING: The Milwaukee Bucks dismissed coach Mike Budenholzer, sources tell ESPN. Budenholzer is out after the East’s top-seed suffered a first-round loss to the Miami Heat. pic.twitter.com/wQp0Zk3lxi— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 4, 2023
This move was not a surprise, but still seems surreal. Coach Bud accumulated a regular season record of 271-120 (0.693 win percentage) during his time in Milwaukee, including three seasons where the Bucks boasted the best record in the entire NBA. He also was a crucial part of the 2021 team that triumphed over Phoenix and won the NBA Finals, the franchise’s first title in 50 years. The Bucks turned from an also-ran into a contender, where a playoff appearance was a foregone conclusion and expectations were elevated to the highest possible point after Year One.
But all good things must come to an end. Mike Budenholzer turned around the trajectory of the team and established a winning culture that valued not just basketball prowess, but human decency as well. Fans foisted undue blame upon him every chance they got; while Coach Bud is not blameless for Milwaukee’s most recent playoff disappointment, the idea that everything would be better if only the coach was someone else seems misguided. In any case, the #FireBud avatar bearers have gotten their wish, and Milwaukee will begin searching for a new head coach to take the lead in 2023-24.
To be fair, it wasn’t all good under Bud. The Bucks were regular season world-beaters, but came crashing down to earth consistently enough in the postseason for Milwaukee’s playoff reputation to precede itself. In 2019, against the Toronto Raptors, the Bucks let a 2-0 series lead slip away in the Eastern Conference Finals because the Raptors adjusted…and Milwaukee didn’t. In 2020, in the COVID Bubble against the Miami Heat, Milwaukee got exposed in similar ways and was bounced in the second round, despite a Giannis Antetokounmpo ankle injury. Then 2021 happened, for which we are forever grateful.
Then in 2022 as they defended their title, the Bucks lost Khris Middleton to a knee injury and fell just short against the Boston Celtics in the second round, but allowed a comeback in Game Six that would have punched their ticket to the Conference Finals. Finally, just a few weeks ago, the Miami Heat absolutely punked Milwaukee in ways that seemed unthinkable until they happened…and they kept happening, culminating in back-to-back blown double-digit leads in Games Four and Five to knock the Bucks out in the very first round.
A team with one of the best players in NBA history, in his prime, has high expectations. The Bucks fell short of those expectations too many times over Coach Bud’s tenure; when expectations continue to not be met, the solution is to either lower expectations or change the circumstances. The Bucks are not content to punt on the next few years of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status as a league-best talent, and so the team and head coach are now parting ways.
A letter from Bucks General Manager Jon Horst and Team President Peter Feigin. pic.twitter.com/8Y8t8V918x— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 4, 2023
No matter what, it’s a sad turn of events. Coach Bud was well-liked by the players and staff, and facilitated a culture-shift that was desperately needed for the franchise. Banners fly forever, and Mike Budenholzer will likely undergo enshrinement in the Basketball Hall Of Fame. Sadly, his time in Milwaukee is over, and we wish him well as our attention turns to the team’s next moves.