Well, my initial plan was to discuss what trends we saw from the Milwaukee Bucks this season and if they still held as we hit the halfway mark. Then the Bucks decided to fire head coach Adrian Griffin, and now all the attention has shifted. The rookie coach failed to convince the fans and eventually, the players that he was the guy to lead Milwaukee to a title. After 43 games, he’s been promptly shown the door.
The Week That Was
- Bucks 95, Cavaliers 135 (Cleveland Rocks, and then some)
- Bucks 141, Pistons 135 (Dame (and Defense?) Defeats Deep-Heavy Detroit)
- Bucks 122, Pistons 113 (Not quite in gear, but just enough)
Grand opening, grand closing; the Adrian Griffin era was short yet entertaining. Griffin officially takes the title of shortest stint of a Milwaukee Bucks (non-interim) head coach with 43 games. Congratulations to Larry Drew; you are officially off the hook. There have been plenty of articles here at BH and elsewhere that highlighted Griffin’s shortcomings. From defensive ineptitude, hesitation on offense, and shock assistant coach departures, the overriding sense is that Griffin may have been overwhelmed by the task at hand. Being a first-time head coach is hard; having to be that while coaching a team with immediate title expectations proved impossible. But as far as what went wrong and who should share the blame, the following individuals are in the spotlight.
When all is said and done, Horst made the final call on Griffin’s hiring. In the aftermath of the latest Heat debacle, firing Mike Budenholzer was not an unreasonable decision. It would give Horst a chance to find someone that would get the Bucks over the hump after some underachieving. Somehow, Horst took a chance on a first-time head coach, and here we are. Yes, he needed to appease his superstar (more on him later) with a new extension in the offing, but Horst should have had the courage of his convictions first and foremost. If he weren’t confident in Griffin and went with him simply because the other guy is super bad vibez, then it’d have behooved him to go back to the drawing board entirely. Combine a half-hearted hire with poorly fitting personnel for Griffin’s ideal scheme, and it all adds up to a massive waste.
I’m not going to blame Griffin for taking the job. There are only 30 of these jobs total, and when one opens up with an opportunity to work with the best player on the planet, you take that chance. But as I mentioned, this job may have been too difficult for him. When you have a veteran squad, you need their buy-in; that didn’t happen. You must show that you have a vision that didn’t occur. Sure, he made changes after a quiet mutiny from the squad, but it only got to that point because the players lost faith in the original plan. When looking back at what Griffin did well, the player rotation and in-game challenges are the only things that jump to mind. Not the sturdiest pillars for a rookie coach to stand on.
Bucks not named Giannis Antetokounmpo
The team has talent, but talent can only get you so far in the NBA. No matter what plan a coach puts together, it won’t matter if the players put the bare minimum effort into it. Far too often I have questioned the effort of the Bucks players, whether here, on game coverage, or on podcast recordings. From abysmal transition defense to lack of communication, lazy passing to poor rebounding efforts, the Bucks sometimes lost games just because the other team wanted it more. Never before have we seen so many stories getting to the media about things not quite going well and with players voicing concerns directly to the head coach. Brook Lopez early in the season, Bobby Portis after the In-Season Tournament semis, and Damian Lillard as a low-key doubter throughout (potentially being the source of the aforementioned leaks). Sure Griffin wasn’t up for the job, but there were times when this roster’s play did him no favors. The next coach will need to nip that attitude in the bud.
The Bucks were searching for a new coach because the ownership group and front office felt like they were squandering Giannis’ chance at a title. We understand that you want your star player to know what is going on with certain decisions. Crucially, they should know who their next boss is going to be. However, when it got to the final candidates, things seemingly went from consulting Giannis to granting Giannis a modicum of veto power over the final call. The implication in the choice of Griffin was, in part, that Giannis believed Griffin would put him in a better position on defense than Bud (or the other finalists) and seemed encouraged by the vision Griffin was selling. But maybe it was all smoke because, according to a report from Marc Stein, Giannis might not even have been pro-Griffin as much as he was anti-Nurse.
Now, I do not like Nike Nurse (editor’s note: Kyle has (jokingly) called him a war criminal on numerous occasions), but I also don’t hold the franchise's fate in the palm of my hand. If Horst thought Nurse was the best of the final bunch, should he have overrode any objection from Giannis? Should Giannis have assented to a hiring he may have been opposed to? It will be interesting to see how Giannis handles questions posed to him about what made him confident in Griffin and eventually, his true feelings as the situation played out. But this is a reminder that there is a difference between needs and wants even for the very best players.
So yes, the Bucks scheming imploded. All we can hope is that lessons were learned in the process of that implosion.
Plays Of The Week
This rookie can do no wrong in my eyes
We’re Bucks fans; of course there will be a Khris to Giannis alley-oop.
When you are in a rhythm and can say f it I’m him.
What’s the vibe?
Me when the Bucks hire Doc Rivers as their next head coach