Milwaukee Bucks: New rumors mount more pressure on Mike Budenholzer

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 05 (Photo by Steven Ryan /Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 05 (Photo by Steven Ryan /Getty Images) /

Mike Budenholzer’s name has been a staple in the news cycle recently as his job as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks remains uncertain beyond this season.

The Bucks had flamed out in consecutive trips to the postseason before this year, much of the blame falling onto Budenholzer’s shoulders. The coach has a well-documented track record of making questionable decisions in the postseason, whether it be his lack of adjustments, minutes distribution to his star players, or his reliance on digging far too deep into his bench to expand the rotation.

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This time around, it seemed clear that the third strike would be Budenholzer’s last if he and the Bucks had another meltdown on the big stage.

Those coaching rumors were potentially confirmed when ESPN senior insider Adrian Wojnarowski and colleague Malika Andrews detailed how Budenholzer’s job security was far from safe, and he would almost certainly be gone if the Bucks’ season ended with a “thud.”

Rumors continue swirling about Mike Budenholzer’s future with the Milwaukee Bucks as opposing coaches are eyeing the potential vacancy

Despite the Bucks currently tied up 2-2 with the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Budenholzer’s job is far from safe, and potential candidates know that.

According to a report from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, one person currently showing interest in potentially taking Budenholzer’s job is Mike D’Antoni. The two-time NBA Coach of the Year is ironically on the other side of the court right now as he is an assistant for the Nets under rookie head coach Steve Nash. Fischer notes that D’Antoni is “motivated” to secure another head coaching gig next season, and Milwaukee is a seemingly desirable destination on his list.

Wojnarowski reported earlier that D’Antoni will interview for the head coaching vacancy with the Portland Trail Blazers today, which furthers the notion that he is eager to get back into head coaching. Time will tell how things transpire there, but his name will be connected to Milwaukee until further notice unless he is hired on the spot.

Another name that Fischer noted should be worth watching is Rick Carlisle, head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. Despite Dallas fizzling out in the first round against the LA Clippers for the second consecutive season, owner Mark Cuban publicly assured reporters that Carlisle would be back next season, making this one more puzzling. Yet, Fischer notes that the Bucks could still request permission to interview Carlisle for their vacancy if they so desired.

The Bucks could also potentially take an internal approach by hiring former Milwaukee Buck, and current assistant Darvin Ham, who Fischer says is someone the players like. Lastly, another name thrown into the mix is Ettore Messina, a former San Antonio Spurs assistant, who is someone worth monitoring if Budenholzer and the Bucks go their separate ways this offseason.

It is not hard to see why all of these names are gravitating towards Milwaukee despite their coach still having his job. The Bucks are undoubtedly built to contend for years to come with a two-time MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the charge, along with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday locked in for the foreseeable future. As a result, it will arguably be the most desirable coaching opening available this offseason if it comes down to it.

However, despite these reports and the rumored interest, it is not a foregone conclusion that Budenholzer will be in the market for a new job once this season concludes. The Bucks are currently lodged in a hard-fought battle with the Nets in a series that is currently all tied up, and Budenholzer has largely done a much better coaching job in these playoffs to this point.

After all, he redeemed himself in round one after outcoaching Erik Spoelstra’s Heat after they embarrassed the Bucks in last year’s playoffs. It was a masterclass effort from Budenholzer as Milwaukee swept Miami with little resistance. Although rumors about his job began to swirl again after the Bucks dropped the first two games against the Nets, the latter being by a brutal 39-point margin, the coach made the proper adjustments and has his team right back in the series.

These next few days could be a turning point for Budenholzer’s future with the franchise, as every move he makes is placed under a microscope. Opposing coaches know he is on the hot seat, and the rumors will not cease anytime soon unless he gets the job done this time around.

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The Bucks are well-positioned to win their first title in over five decades, but Budenholzer’s past failures still have fans cautious of this time. With his job having been rumored to be on the line for months, he knows that this is likely do-or-die for his club.