As the NBA Playoffs advance, several teams around the league are currently without a coach. Teams like the Charlotte Hornets, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks are all in the midst of coaching searches with the hopes of finding a mastermind who can lead his respective team to success. These four teams, however, tend to be targeting the same group of available coaches which should make this coaching search extremely interesting moving forward. The Phoenix Suns moved quickly and hired former Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov to be the team’s new head coach.
On Thursday, the New York Knicks made a splash when the organization signed former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale to a four-year deal to become the team’s new head coach. Prior to the move, Fizdale was arguably the most desired coach available and appeared on practically all of the four team’s wishlists including the Milwaukee Bucks.
Now that Fizdale is off the market, the Bucks will move forward by interviewing a variety of former NBA coaches including Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and David Blatt.
Clifford was the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets for the last five seasons before he got fired. In Charlotte, Clifford had a record of 196-214. During those five seasons, Clifford did manage to reach the playoffs twice but lost in the first round both times.
Budenholzer was the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks for the last five seasons before parting ways with the organization. In those five seasons, Budenholzer had a record of 213-197. Budenholzer impressively took the Hawks to the playoffs four times including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2014-2015 season which earned him NBA Coach of the Year honors.
Williams was the head coach of the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans from 2010-2015. During that span, Williams had a record of 173-221 and made it to the playoffs once, losing 4-0 to the Warriors in 2015. He then served as the top assistant coach in Oklahoma City in 2016, when the Thunder nearly toppled the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, basketball became a secondary concern in Williams’ life when his wife, Ingrid Williams, tragically died in a car accident in 2016. Williams stepped away from coaching after the accident and has been serving as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the San Antonio Spurs, essentially serving as GM RC Buford’s right-hand man. Williams is now looking for a shot at redemption after his previous head coaching tenure.
Blatt was the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014-2016. In roughly one and a half seasons, Blatt had a record of 83-40. The main reason for Blatt’s firing was his imperfect relationship with LeBron James. Ultimately, that firing turned out to be a good move for the Cavaliers as they won the NBA championship that same season. Since his firing, Blatt surprisingly went to coach basketball in Turkey but seems interested in a return to the NBA this upcoming season.
Although my opinion on this issue will not impact Milwaukee’s choice, I would pick Budenholzer to be the team’s next coach. He is the only candidate to have made the playoffs more than two times in his previous tenure and fell victim to an Atlanta front office that was focused primarily on tanking this past season.
Budenholzer is a coveted Popovich disciple who can bring consistency to a Milwaukee team that desperately needs it. Budenholzer was an assistant in San Antonio from 1996-2013 and used Popovich’s system to turn an underachieving Hawks team into a championship contender. With studs like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe on the roster, this team could be a star coach away from potentially competing for an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.