Milwaukee Bucks: Mike Budenholzer’s growing coaching tree

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 02: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 02: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Mike Budenholzer’s influence within the NBA has been palpable since he became a head coach and that’s extended into his time with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Over the last two seasons, Milwaukee Bucks fans have gotten to see the workings of head coach Mike Budenholzer up close and personal.

Through the leading contributions of the team’s core headlined by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Budenholzer has shepherded a new fruitful era of Bucks basketball that has clearly been nothing short of a glowing success.

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That, in turn, has seen Budenholzer rise up the rankings in terms of racking up plenty of wins in the franchise’s history and it’s all been an extension of his success as an NBA head coach since getting hired by the Atlanta Hawks nearly seven years ago.

With the success that Budenholzer has achieved to this point in his career, that has made him and his coaching staff a proverbial magnet for the various coaching gigs that have opened up over the last several years.

It obviously also speaks to the effect that the San Antonio Spurs have had on the NBA since the turn of the 21st century under legendary head coach Gregg Popovich, whom Budenholzer served under for 17 seasons from 1996 to 2013.

To this point, Budenholzer’s coaching disciples have included Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, former Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins, who spent last season in Milwaukee as one of Budenholzer’s assistant coaches before getting his promotion nearly a year ago.

Snyder’s held the longest reign of the three as he’s spent the last five-and-a-half seasons in Salt Lake City after being on Budenholzer’s staff during his first year in Atlanta in 2013-14. And Snyder has overseen the Jazz and helped build them into a perennial competitor in a loaded Western Conference over the last few seasons, though they have failed to reach the Western Conference Finals under his stint.

Atkinson seemed to be on the same trajectory as Snyder before his time with the Brooklyn Nets stunningly ended right before the suspension of the 2019-20 season. Atkinson got the step up to the big chair in the summer of 2016 after spending three years on Budenholzer’s staff with the Hawks.

Overseeing one of the trickiest rebuilds in recent memory, Atkinson was down the right path as he helped the Nets reach the playoffs last season before bowing out to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. But the Nets’ plans quickly changed with the arrival of both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last summer and Atkinson stepped down as head coach in early March of this year in what was always going to be a transition year anyway.

Jenkins’ first season in Memphis hasn’t even completed at this juncture due to the season being paused. But it’s been a great introduction to Memphis for the 35-year-old as the Grizzlies currently stand as the eighth seed in the West with a 33-32 record and have a blossoming core headlined by the likes of rookie guard Ja Morant and second-year big man Jaren Jackson Jr.

As it’s often said, the NBA is a copycat league and when one enjoys success as Budenholzer has done as a head coach in the league, rebuilding teams or ones that are in need of a fresh voice aren’t very far behind. The Bucks definitely know that to be the case.

One can only wonder, with the Bucks standing atop of the league for the second straight regular season, whether we’ll see another assistant coach under Budenholzer take the next step in their coaching careers.

Without riling up any speculation, we do know that current Bucks assistant and overall Bucks legend, Darvin Ham, did interview for the Minnesota TImberwolves coaching vacancy last year as The Athletic’s John Krawczynski reported before Ryan Saunders gained it permanently soon thereafter.

The current season being suspended has put a pause on all coaching and front office changes, save for the Chicago Bulls, but once the offseason does come, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of Budenholzer’s assistants, at minimum, get a look or interview for an open coaching gig.

Next. Building an all-time Bucks team around Giannis Antetokounmpo. dark

Again, being in the position where opposing teams look to the development program, team culture and success the Bucks have fashioned under Budenholzer reinforces his high standing within the league. Whether they can copy the same level of success, well, that’s another thing.