Although Mike Budenholzer led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title in 50 years, he won’t get the chance to pursue a second championship. Budenholzer was fired by the Bucks on Thursday following a five-year run that included the 2021 championship. Although Budenholzer transformed Milwaukee into a perennial force and supervised the most prosperous stretch in the team’s history during the regular season, a shocking first-round playoff loss last month added to a long series of postseason failures under his direction. The Bucks general manager, Jon Horst, stated in a statement, “The choice to make this change was very tough. “We are appreciative of Bud’s contribution to Milwaukee’s culture of leadership and success. We now have the chance to refocus and reenergize our efforts as we advance into our subsequent championship season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the franchise star, was just beginning to come into his own when 53-year-old Budenholzer moved to Milwaukee in 2018. He immediately guided the Bucks to a 60-win season in 2018–19, earning him his second coach of the year honor. Budenholzer built exceptional offensive and defensive teams around Antetokounmpo, and Milwaukee’s 271 victories over the last five regular seasons are the most in the NBA.
Budenholzer Frequently Struggled
But Budenholzer frequently struggled to make the required modifications in the playoffs despite the fact that his rigid ideals were essential to the Bucks’ success. In a matchup that was a replica of Miami’s second-round series victory against Milwaukee in the 2020 bubble, the Miami Heat defeated the Bucks in five games, making Milwaukee the first No. 1 seed in NBA history to win just one game while being ousted by a No. 8 seed. The Bucks wasted 2-0 leads to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals and a 3-2 series lead against the Boston Celtics last year, in addition to the two Heat shocks. Along the way, Budenholzer’s careful management of Antetokounmpo’s minutes, his hesitation to switch up his defensive alignments or double-team opposition players, his penchant for relying on veterans over developing younger talents, and his tactical choices in the closing minutes of games were criticized.
Milwaukee lost its most recent game to Miami after blowing leads of 15 and 16 points in games 4 and 5, respectively, and giving up a total of 98 points to Jimmy Butler of the Heat in those two games. Following the game, Antetokounmpo openly questioned Budenholzer’s strategy, stating he wanted the chance to guard Butler more frequently since Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday had too much on his plate to be in charge of such a difficult task alone.
Antetokounmpo remarked, “Jrue did his best, dude. But he becomes exhausted at the end of the day. He needs to defend Jimmy and rebound, pass, score, and score the ball. He becomes worn out. We might have been able to force him to pass the ball by using more double teams. Give Jrue a rest for two or three minutes and consider switching the matchup for a short while. I don’t believe we as a team made the best changes against him or that we did so to the fullest extent possible. … I hope I could keep [Butler] better secured.
At the end of regular in Game 5, Budenholzer neglected to call a timeout to set up a possible game-winning shot, and the Bucks failed to make a shot on their final possession in overtime. Budenholzer substituted out centre Brook Lopez to match up with a smaller lineup before Butler completed a pivotal lob at the end of regulation, a move that helped Miami win since Milwaukee had no big men available to defend the basket area.