Prior to tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks GM Jon Horst took the podium to address the firing of Adrian Griffin. It was a jam-packed room with media, as you might expect.
With that being said, let’s dive into what was said by Horst. Keep in mind that he said that he wasn’t going to be talking about Doc Rivers during this. That will be during Doc’s introductory presser, which is yet to be scheduled.
First, here’s Horst’s opening statement:
“Obviously, a difficult decision. Adrian is a great person. Brought a lot to the franchise and we’re thankful for that and I’m thankful for the time we had with him. But we also believe that we have an opportunity now, with this special group, the talent on this team. The dynamic on the team’s changed. The team itself has changed from when we hired him and we felt an opportunity to improve and get better and we wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. I also would say that we believe this is a good team right now and with improvements, we have a chance to be great. We’re looking for a way to really make this a great team. That’s on me, that’s on players, that’s on coaching, and we’re gonna to pursue that effort as well. In the interim, Joe Prunty is going to be the head coach through the transition and we’ll kind of continue to move from there.”
That was the theme of the presser — opportunity. Horst kept going back to it throughout his availability. It was evident that Griffin wasn’t the right fit for the job and that with how the roster has changed, the Bucks want to ensure they capitalize on the chance that’s in front of them to win.
Next, he was asked why now was the time to part ways with Griffin:
“It’s part of my job. It’s our job to constantly evaluate and to learn, to listen, and just continue to figure out how to improve this team. And for us, we felt this was the right time, the right decision to make and that we had an opportunity to improve the group. There isn’t a specific instance. There isn’t a specific timing to it. It’s just this and going through it and evaluating and looking, the dynamic’s different. Giannis extended. Khris committed. Brook committed. We were able to acquire Dame. These are hard windows to come by. These are special opportunities. I think we have a special group. I believe in this team at a high level and ownership, myself, and Peter, we’ve continued to be bold and to be aggressive and try to figure out how to maximize these chances we have and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Again, Horst referred to how things have evolved. This is a totally different roster than when Griffin was brought in and major players have shaped things with contractual decisions, as Horst said above. Last, he shines a light on the importance of being aggressive to maximize that opportunity. He’d later highlight how the cohesion between everyone from the front office to ownership are all aligned, which allows those decisions to occur.
He was then asked about those opportunities to improve and go from good to great:
“I think for me and my staff, we constantly are turning that over. We’re looking for ways to improve the roster. That’s not to say we don’t believe in this group as constructed. I think this group as constructed has upside. I think we’ve yet to maximize what we can become. Some of that’s timing, some of that’s integrating a new star, integrating new pieces, a new system...Khris coming back, playing a real role, real minutes compared to what he had done in the last year or so. So, I think there’s upside in the roster as constructed. I know that we’re going to do our job to figure out if we can improve the roster and then as part of this and why we’re sitting here today, I think there’s a coaching element where we have a chance to get better as well.”
This speaks to how they don’t want to settle. Again, the Bucks are 30-13. Yet, they felt they could be better. That’s not being content. That’s striving for greatness. They then came to the conclusion that in order to achieve that, a change in coaching was necessary.
One of those areas to improve is obviously on the defensive end, which was something that Horst was asked about. Here’s his response on where he thinks the team can go from here:
“Defensively, we have a talented group, I think, that can be better than what they’ve been so far. Is that a top 5 defense? A top 10? Top 15? I don’t know. And that’s what we’re trying to decide here with the roster as constructed. We’re trying to understand where we can take it having the players be better. Players have an accountability to do this and then the coaching element. I know that we’re going to be really good offensively and we gotta figure out how to improve defensively consistently. We’ve had points throughout the season where we’ve been very good defensively and we’ve had points where we’ve really struggled. So, trying to find a consistency and identity on that side as part of this.”
Again, the opportunity continues to be the theme. He stresses how there’s room for improvement. Consistency is obviously something that’s been lacking, and it’ll be imperative for Doc Rivers to find that groove moving forward.
Next, some people have expressed doubt at the Bucks being able to find success following this abrupt coaching change. Horst didn’t agree with that notion:
“Generally speaking, NBA players, the NBA system to me is incredible. Like, how they can transition, adapt, and adjust on the fly. You think of players that get traded, changes that happen in-season all the time. And so, although it’s a condensed period of time calendar-wise, I think in the world of the NBA and what in particular, are real smart, professional, mature players can do...a great coaching staff around them. I believe there is enough time for them to find an identity, find a rhythm together, and continue to grow. It may feel shortened, but the things that happen in the NBA happen quick all the time and transition happens all the time and I think we’ll be well adapted to it.”
I agree with that. Sure, it may take a little bit for Doc to mesh with everyone and establish himself. But at the same time, these are professionals. It’s going to be a challenging task, but I think the Bucks are up to it.
Next, every Bucks fan has seen the comments Giannis made a few weeks ago about how the team needed to be better. Horst was asked if those comments or any other comments from players impacted the decision to relieve Griffin:
“In fairness, he didn’t just say we needed to be coached better. He talked about himself being better, his teammates, I think the equipment manager, the trainer, me, whoever, you can go through the whole list. This is not about players’ comments. This is not about things said or unsaid. Again, this is my job, this organization’s job at the top to evaluate every single day all areas of the organization and feel like whether we’re getting or not getting the most that we can out of that group. And we feel like we can maximize the talent of this group better if we made a change and that’s why we made it.”
In addition to this, he also said that no players were consulted in the decision to part ways with Griffin. You might remember that Giannis was a big part of the process in initially bringing Griffin in and that he vetoed Nick Nurse, who was the front office’s first choice. Giannis didn’t have that same sway this time around.
Next, Horst touched upon what they’re seeking moving forward from a whole organizational perspective:
“What we’re looking for now is a path to go forward and maximize this group from a leadership perspective and an experience perspective. We want to try to bring in a coach that can really take us to the next level where we can think we can go with this group. And again, that’s not just about coaching. The players have to be better and have to improve. My group has to continue to figure out how to improve the roster, but we think coaching is an element for us to get better.”
The next part was where Horst definitely seemed agitated. He was asked if he thought that Adrian Griffin ever had the locker room in his time as head coach or if he lost it. His response:
“Honestly, kind of going through this in the last how many ever hours, my biggest frustration with kind of the aftermath is that’s the narrative. That’s not my opinion. Doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong but my opinion, my assessment, the ownership’s assessment in going through this, wasn’t an assessment that he lost the locker room, that there was dysfunction, that there was players that were jumping off the ship. That’s just not our assessment. I believe and I truly mean this, that that’s the story. Everyone’s trying to look for a bigger story than that we had an opportunity to get better and that we wanted to get better and that we think that we have a chance to do that. And so they’re trying to look at things that in my mind, are relatively common throughout the course of an NBA season and most NBA teams and generate stories out of it. And in my opinion, that’s just not really the true narrative. Did some of those things exist? Absolutely. Is that uncommon in the NBA? In almost my 20 years of doing this, it happens almost all the time so I’m really frustrated by that. I get it. It’s part of the business. Adrian Griffin did a hell of a job. He’s an incredible person. I believe he’s going to be a very good coach moving forward. This was a chance for us to resource our team in a different way after a change from when we hired him and that’s why we did it.”
And now, we have a game that’s currently underway against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Follow me on Twitter/X for quotes out of the locker room during postgame. They’ll also all make my extended recap, which will be published tomorrow morning.
As of right now, there’s no timetable as to when Doc Rivers’ press conference will be or when his first game will be. It’s surely going to be an interesting next few days!