Milwaukee Bucks: Ranking Mike Budenholzer’s wins in team history

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 6: (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 6: (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

Mike Budenholzer has had a phenomenal first couple of years with the Milwaukee Bucks, but how does he compare to the franchise’s past coaches?

With close to two seasons at the helm of the Milwaukee Bucks, Mike Budenholzer has met and surpassed most of the immediate expectations that were laid out for him ahead of taking the job.

It’s easy to forget that it was just two years ago that, led by interim coach Joe Prunty, the Bucks crashed out in seven games to a Kyrie Irving-less Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

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At that point, the Bucks becoming legitimate top tier contenders was still more of a hope than an expectation.

A total of 162 games later, Budenholzer has transformed how the Bucks play on both ends and, alongside strong work from general manager Jon Horst, has helped the Bucks to become the Eastern Conference’s most consistent team by racking up victories at an astonishing rate.

With 113 wins from his 147 regular season games to date, Budenholzer boasts a winning percentage of .769, which currently places him as a clear No. 1 in that regard in the history of Bucks coaches.

The two coaches with the most wins in Bucks history are, unsurprisingly, Don Nelson (540 wins, .611) and Larry Costello (410 wins, .608). As things stand, Budenholzer already ranks seventh out of Milwaukee’s 16 head coaches in terms of total wins.

Next in his sights is his predecessor, Jason Kidd, with just 26 wins separating the two at present despite the fact Kidd’s tenure was twice as long as Coach Bud’s has been so far.

At his current pace, it would still take Budenholzer the best part of a decade to overtake Nelson’s formidable win total, a testament to just how dominant those Bucks teams were. Among Nelson’s feats in the 1980s was a streak of seven consecutive seasons where his Bucks squad won at least 50 games.

Still, it can’t be diminished just how fast Budenholzer’s start has been. To have racked up 113 wins through two seasons is truly impressive, and that comes with knowing he might not even have the opportunity to finish out the final 17 games of this 2019-20 campaign.

Nelson’s first three seasons in Milwaukee finished with a combined 109 regular season wins, still four below Bud’s current tally. In Costello’s case, year three delivered 66 wins and an NBA championship, but the first two seasons only amounted to 83 wins.

Budenholzer certainly had the fortune of starting his tenure a little further along in the team’s progression than those two coaching luminaries, but by no means did he inherit a readymade behemoth.

Coach Bud picked up the NBA’s Coach of the Year award last season, and he’ll undoubtedly be in the running for that honor again this season. Given that no coach has ever repeated as the award’s winner, the odds may be stacked against him, but another win in that category would make Budenholzer a three-time winner, matching Nelson, his mentor Gregg Popovich, and Pat Riley for most all-time.

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There’s been a lot to admire about the Bucks over the past couple of years, but while Giannis Antetokounmpo has been building up his case as potentially the greatest Bucks player of all-time, on the sideline, Mike Budenholzer is certainly on track to being the franchise’s coaching equivalent too.