Milwaukee Bucks: 3 overlooked things Mike Budenholzer deserves credit for

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 22 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 22 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton, Mike Budenholzer
MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 27 (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

At one point in time, fans’ perspectives of Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer vacillated by the day.

Rather unjustly, the typical ebbs and flows of a regular season in the National Basketball Association that any other coach would face, too, came to have far-reaching implications that extended to his very employment within the franchise. That was commonplace on social media until it wasn’t—and the Bucks tactician is now hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy in just his third year with the franchise.

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As reported by ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bucks opted to extend their championship-winning tactician for three more years after he led the franchise to its first world title in 50 years.

Some fans rejoiced at the prospect of having their championship strategist locked down for the foreseeable future. Others were unsure about the move.

Much has been said about Budenholzer’s impact on the Bucks organization. His first few years saw the team snagging league-leading offensive and defensive ratings en route to his second Coach of the Year plum. The Bucks have also consistently ranked among the best teams standings-wise over the past few years, and a cursory glance at their on-court performance shows you all you need to know.

To be sure, the Bucks’ fiefdom has given Budenholzer the flowers he deserves in the wake of their NBA championship. But the mixed reactions to his contract extension betray a simple fact: his overall impact on this Bucks team has still largely gone under the radar for most fans of the team.

Bud’s 162-65 record with the team is certainly an impressive feat. But a litany of other factors directly influenced by Mike Budenholzer has impacted the team both on and off the basketball court that eventually set them up for long-term success. Here are a few subtle changes Budenholzer instituted and deserves more credit for.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ culture and locker room dynamic could rival that of the NBA’s top teams

Other teams in the association have been lauded and recognized for their flair and modus operandi to the game of basketball. The Miami Heat’s so-called “Heat Culture” motto, for instance, embodies a hard-nosed and blue-collar approach to the game where hard work beats talent more than anything else. Perhaps owing to the market of South Beach, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro’s early morning workouts were well-reported and garnered much publicity on social media.

Though not as well-documented, the defending champions have always carried themselves with a similar class and professionalism under the Budenholzer era, too. Despite the slow start over the past three years of Budenholzer’s tenure, the Bucks have not once given the NBA community any reason to doubt the character and integrity underpinning their core values as a basketball club.

On the level of the front office, coaching staff, and players, for instance, the Bucks organization has always exemplified these things in the way they ran things, from the way they hung flags to celebrate their international members to how they willingly supported a boycott of playoff games last year to take a stand against systemic racism.

There’s a pronounced focus on the team that shines through in their interviews. In the playoffs, the next-man-up mentality was also clear after the Bucks lost their fifth starter after just three games. Where other teams buckled under the loss of a crucial piece in these playoffs, the Bucks soldiered on and went on to win it all in spite of this.

The professionalism shows on the basketball court, too. This season, the Milwaukee Bucks actually had the second-least total personal fouls inflicted on opposing players, according to CBS Sports also found that the Bucks were tied for fourth-least flagrant fouls per game while being one of five teams that did not record any ejections this season. This comes despite their emerging brand of physical basketball focusing on hustle, intangibles, and all-around energy.

Even after winning the title, the Bucks have never been a particularly loud team. Despite their successes, it seems the focus remains on getting better day by day, showing up every day, and putting the work in.

Locker room dynamics are certainly affected mostly by the players and personalities that constitute said locker room. But much of this is also affected by the tone and direction set by the coaching staff that controls team practice beyond the locker room. And the staff of Budenholzer has done a tremendous job of keeping their team hungry for success but also professional in their approach.

Look out, NBA: Bucks culture is here to stay.