Budenholzer officially hired, looks to take Bucks to next level

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks have officially announced the hiring of Mike Budenholzer as their new coach.

A person familiar with the search had told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the Milwaukee Bucks had reached an agreement with Budenholzer, the former Atlanta Hawks coach. The Bucks made the official announcement Thursday.

“The tremendously supportive fans in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin are waiting and ready,” Budenholzer said in a statement released by the team. “Now it’s up to us to put all the pieces together, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Budenholzer replaces Joe Prunty, the former assistant who went 21-16 in the regular season after replacing the fired Jason Kidd in late January. The Bucks lost to Boston in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

The 48-year-old Budenholzer went 213-197 in five seasons with the Hawks. Budenholzer was named the NBA coach of the year in 2015, when he led the Hawks to a franchise-record 60 wins and an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals.

He and the Hawks mutually agreed to part ways last month with two years remaining on his contract, allowing Budenholzer to pursue other opportunities.

Before joining the Hawks, Budenholzer spent 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, including a 17-year stint as an assistant coach. The Spurs won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 during Budenholzer’s tenure as an assistant coach.

“Mike has played a key role in building successful teams throughout his career,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement. “He’s widely respected and has shown a special ability to teach and develop players. His leadership, basketball intellect, championship-level experience and communication skills make him the right fit to take our team to the next level.”

Budenholzer takes over a team that has a legitimate star in Giannis Antetokounmpo but is attempting to take the next step after making first-round playoff exits each of the last two years. The Bucks, who will be moving into a new arena in the fall, haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the postseason since reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.

“There are terrific people throughout the organization, and together we have a tremendous opportunity to take the Bucks to the next level,” Budenholzer said in a statement. “I look forward to working with our group of young and exciting players and helping us evolve in many ways to succeed on the court.”

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