Bucks fire coach Budenholzer after early exit


The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Mike Budenholzer, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday.

Budenholzer is out after the East’s top-seed suffered a first-round loss to the Miami Heat.

Budenholzer spent five seasons as coach in Milwaukee and guided the Bucks to a championship in the 2021 NBA Finals, the franchise’s first championship in 50 years.

The Bucks won 58 games under Budenholzer during the 2022-23 season and entered the 2023 playoffs as the NBA’s No. 1 overall seed, but Milwaukee fell in the first round to the No. 8 seed Heat in five games, only the sixth 1-seed in NBA history to lose to an 8-seed.

Budenholzer’s decision-making during the series came under question when the Bucks squandered double-digit leads in Games 4 and 5 of the series. In Game 5, Milwaukee had a pair of opportunities to win the game on the final possessions of the fourth quarter and overtime, but Budenholzer elected not to use his final timeouts in either scenario.

Budenholzer acknowledged after Game 5 that he should have called a timeout to advance the ball at the end of the fourth quarter, but he also did not call a timeout before the final possession in overtime and the Bucks never got a final shot off before their season ended.

Heat star Jimmy Butler delivered an all-time playoff performance — 37.6 points on 59.7% shooting — but Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was critical of the team’s lack of adjustments to try and slow him down, saying he wished he had more reps defending Butler.

“Out of respect, you’ve got to let the coach make the adjustment,” Antetokounmpo said after Game 5. “At the end of the day, I wish I could’ve guarded [Butler] more.”

During Budenholzer’s tenure, the Bucks transformed into a perennial contender. Milwaukee went 271-120 (.693) during the regular season with Budenholzer at the helm, the best record in the league across that span. The Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA during three separate seasons (2018-19, ’19-20 and ’22-23), but never made it to the Finals in any of those years. They dropped two playoff series against the Heat — this season and in the Orlando bubble in ’20, both in five games — where they were overwhelming favorites.

Speculation about Budenholzer’s job status swirled following the 2020 playoff loss to Miami, but the Bucks rebounded to win a championship the next season. He signed a three-year contract extension after the ’21 season, which ran through 2024-25 season.

Before Milwaukee, Budenholzer spent five seasons as coach of the Atlanta Hawks where he went 213-197 (.520) during the regular season but finished 17-22 (.436) in the playoffs.

Milwaukee assistant coaches under Budenholzer have become intriguing head coaching candidates for teams with openings in recent years, including Darvin Ham, who was hired from Budenholzer’s staff to coach the Los Angeles Lakers in 2022. Another current Bucks assistant, Charles Lee, is a finalist for the Detroit Pistons coaching opening.

ESPN’s Jamal Collier contributed to this report.

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