Milwaukee Bucks: Mike Budenholzer has deservingly secured his future

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JULY 03: (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JULY 03: (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

One of two head coaches in Milwaukee Bucks history has now led the team to the NBA Finals.

On the eve of the Bucks playing in their first NBA Finals in 47 years, Mike Budenholzer has been the figurehead for Milwaukee’s struggles to translate their regular season success into the postseason in the previous two seasons.

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The resounding disappointment of those playoff runs set the wheels in motion for the ongoing adaptability and the increased flexibility we’ve come to see today as the Bucks have fought through plenty of adversity in reaching the biggest stage the NBA can offer.

There’s no question that the Bucks’ front office have put better tools and have made the necessary additions in place to help foster Bud’s personal evolution. The same goes for the expanded coaching staff with the hirings of assistant coaches like Mike Dunlap and Josh Oppenheimer and we may see some members go on to first-time head coaching jobs once the Bucks’ season is finally though (after winning a title, of course).

Yet Budenholzer’s growth has been on full display over the Bucks’ playoff run and especially as they have suffered key losses, including Giannis Antetokounmpo midway through the Eastern Conference Finals.

Mike Budenholzer’s adaptability has been a primary theme in the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff run

The rap of Budenholzer not being able to adjust and veer away from his prized system had followed the Bucks going into yet another pressure cooker of a Bucks playoff run. The topic of adjustments or the lack thereof had long followed Budenholzer well before arriving to Milwaukee and dating back to his time with the Atlanta Hawks.

A disciple of legendary San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Budenholzer represented the connection to such a model organization that the Bucks have long aspired to follow. Yet for all of that and having the two-time MVP, the championship success, much less a trip to the Finals, had remained elusive for Budenholzer. Not anymore, of course.

As veteran Bucks forward and newcomer P.J. Tucker explained after the Bucks secured their trip to the Final after beating the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Conference Finals over the weekend, Budenholzer deserves credit for allowing the Bucks to play with freedom in their roles as result of their improved personnel:

"“They’ve adjusted. He’s done more adjusting this year than he’s ever done before. Switching up our schemes and some of the things that we’re doing, he’s getting a little more adventurous and that’s good to hear because with our personnel, I think he gives us the freedom to be able to do that and it’s a part of the reason why we’ve been so successful.”"

Mike Budenholzer’s future should remain with the Milwaukee Bucks

With the edict set from on high that this year can’t end in another playoff thud, Budenholzer and the Bucks have flipped the script. The championship-like equity the Bucks have built under Budenholzer has finally paid off in this long-awaited trip to the Finals for the players, Budenholzer and the organization as a whole.

For all of the quibbles and criticisms Budenholzer has drawn over the last years, he has absolutely a central figure to the glowing success the Bucks have achieved. The two-time Coach of the Year is currently on track to have the highest winning percentage at 71.4 percent as well as the highest playoff winning percentage in Bucks history at 64.3 percent, along with the fifth-highest amount of wins (162).

Yes, the Bucks have been historically dominant at times under Budenholzer only for it to go for naught come the playoffs. For all of the highs and lows he’s seen as a coach, this is certainly his greatest act, in part because it runs counter to what he has been historically portrayed as, for better or for worse. Even if that discounts the overwhelming success he has achieved in both Atlanta and now in Milwaukee.

As Bucks general manager Jon Horst spoke earlier about in the season, the opportunity and the lessons learned of the last two seasons has brought the partnership between Horst and Budenholzer to new heights this season:

"“I think it’s awesome. It’s incredible to have a partner in this business that cares about winning as much as he does that he’s willing to adjust and change and try things differently for the ultimate goal.I think all of us want to win and want to win at the highest level and we’re willing to do anything we can to do it. When the motivation and the mindset is not one of selfishness or lack of flexibility, it’s a true, genuine kind of partnership where we work together and try to figure out ways to do it better. That’s how you get there, I hope…The things we’re doing offensively is an example of that. Different defensive strategies and philosophies are examples of that. There’s examples from players’ perspectives and from a front office perspective, with the way we’ve attacked certain transactions and different things we’ve done.“Ultimately, who knows if it works out. You have to be lucky, you have to be healthy. But the mindset and the motivations behind what we’re doing, I think is awesome. That’s the word I would use. It’s incredible that Bud and his staff are doing the things that they’re doing and it’s not always easy. It’s not always pretty when you do it…"

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This playoff run certainly hasn’t been pretty by any means for the Bucks. And yet through all of the highs and lows, Budenholzer has helped provide answer for all of the tests they’ve passed thus far. Even before his and the Bucks’ greatest test, we’ll surely have an answer on Budenholzer’s future in the near-term, regardless of how this Finals series shakes out.