Mike Budenholzer and Jon Horst
One season into their partnership, both Budenholzer and Horst have been instrumental in turning the Bucks into a worthwhile contender in such a stunning rate of time, which led to both being named NBA Coach of the Year and NBA Executive of the Year for last season, respectively.
Upon being asked what working with one another is like, here’s what Horst had to say:
“Ah, there’s no doubt I think we work great together. He’s been an unbelievable partner. I think he would agree it has a lot to do with the other award we got also, the MVP on our team. Great partner, thankful to have him, what an amazing addition to our organization and looking forward to many years to come.”
Likewise, Budenholzer, sporting a rugged offseason beard, reflected on his relationship with Horst:
“Yeah, it’s been incredible working with Jon. The roster he put together, everything he’s giving us to be successful and I think his openness to my coaching staff, to me, learning from each other, having great debates, figuring out what’s best for our team, what’s best for our organization. I couldn’t imagine a better partner. I couldn’t be more happy working everyday with Jon and both of us pushing each other to be better. He pushes me to be better and I very much appreciate that.”
When asked about the process of hiring Budenholzer back in May of 2018, Horst recounted what stood out about bringing in the two-time NBA Coach of the Year and how it’s manifested into on-court success for the Bucks:
“There’s two things that really stood out to me: his passion for his staff and player development. And you can see it with our young players. Guys like Sterling (Brown), Donte (DiVincenzo), D.J. (Wilson). You know, Pat Connaughton, the way he’s come on to the scene. Even the guys that are more established. Eric Bledsoe becoming a better player, Khris Middleton, Giannis (Antetokounmpo). Their player development and how passionate he was for that really stood out.
And then he talked about unlocking the talent. He appreciated the roster we had in place, the pieces we had in place. It really felt he could do more with the group we had and of course, we had to add more to it. And then, talking about being a great partner and the experience he’s had in San Antonio, seeing how Pop and R.C (Buford) work together and collaborate on roster decisions, on coaching things and really valuing partnership at every level of the organization. So those two things really stood out and we’re very grateful to have him, obviously.”
On working with the reigning Most Valuable Player, Budenholzer relayed what has stood out to him in coaching one of the greatest players in the league today:
“How long is this show? (to laughter) We could talk about him all night. But I think the competitive spirit he brings to everything he does. I think that’s everything. We want to start with great competitors and that may be his defining characteristic. What a great characteristic to start with. But I think him as a teammate, how he’s grown as a leader, how his teammates respect him and look to him. I think the work ethic that comes everyday. But I think there’s a compassion he has with teammates, he understands his role and how important he is. But he wants to be treated the same as everybody else, he wants to be coached hard. He’s critical of himself, so, he’s really a coach’s dream, to be honest with you. And I think he’s a teammate’s dream, which is probably even more of a compliment to Giannis and how he’s respected in the locker room and appreciated. Laughing with his teammates, laughs at himself. You know, he’s just the best and there’s no doubt in our mind he’s the MVP. He makes me a much better coach. Our organization, he’s such a critical part of it and I can talk about him just on and on.”
When asked about looking back at what he and the Bucks accomplished as a whole last season, Budenholzer touched on what was such a memorable season, even with what was such a stunning end to it in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors:
“All summer, it’s trying to balance. You know, there’s always a frustration when you’re not that last team, when you’re not the team standing at the end of the year. You feel like you could have been that team, so there’s that, I’ll just use the word frustration. But there’s also a ton of pride in all of the team accomplishments. Being the number one team in defensive efficiency and really talking about that from the first day of camp, the first drill we do being defensive related. All of the great things that happened on that side of the ball. From an offensive perspective, the way the team was able to learn and grow and understand what we were doing offensively. There’s all that day-to-day work, day-to-day improvement, both collectively and individually. Everybody sees 60 wins and it’s kind of the, I think, fruits of that labor. If you don’t put in all the time at work each day, you don’t get to 60. A special season for our players, for our organization, for our fans and our city. Incredibly prideful, but still feel like there’s a lot more to be done.”
Horst, more specifically, talked about that bitter Conference Finals defeat and why the underlying details came to haunt the Bucks and their performance at that stage:
“In context to the question that you asked, what are the things you feel like you can to do to improve. And my response was I think it’s different for all of us. I’m sure that Bud and his staff are spending time figuring out which areas they need to improve and what they can do different. I know our players are working every single day, have had an unbelievable summer, trying to improve and get better, so they’re better prepared. We spent an entire summer trying to continue to improve the roster and our flexibility, our options, to continue to be actionable and transactional when needed. At the end of the day, it’s a lot about what Bud had said, every single day, every single possession. It’s just the minor, the small steps along the way that matter. Just like in that series, you can really trace it back. For Bud, it might be three possessions. For me, it might be five. For Khris, it might be one. But it’s not the context of a whole series. It’s not looking too far ahead, looking too big. It’s really kind of the next step, taking it in day by day, taking it step by step and that’s how you get better and improve.”