Mike Budenholzer early frontrunner to become new Suns head coach

May 9, 2024, 3:39 PM | Updated: 6:13 pm

Former Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has emerged as the Phoenix Suns’ likely head coaching choice after they fired Frank Vogel on Thursday, Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported.

Gambadoro said the list of candidates would not be long and a decision is expected to come quickly. An announcement could arrive next week. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Budenholzer is already working to assemble a coaching staff with the momentum building.

The Suns fired Vogel after one season in which Phoenix finished 49-33 and was swept out of the NBA playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round.

Vogel, Kevin Young and Doc Rivers were the three finalists for the job last year after Monty Williams was let go, although Budenholzer interviewed to be the Suns’ head coach back in 2018.

Budenholzer is an Arizona native from Holbrook. He was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs from 1996-2013 where he won four titles.

His record with the Hawks was 213-197 over five seasons, and he won the 2014-15 Coach of the Year award. The Bucks hired him after he and the Hawks parted ways, and he won Coach of the Year in his first season there.

Budenholzer was Milwaukee’s head coach for five seasons, including their NBA championship run in 2020-21 when the Bucks defeated the Suns in six games.

His record in Milwaukee was 271-120 where he coached two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he was dismissed after a first-round exit in 2022-23.

The Suns have had six head coaches in the past nine seasons, with Williams sticking for the longest tenure of four years.

Owner Mat Ishbia has fired two head coaches since taking over the team last year with championship aspiration falling short.

“We are here to win a championship and last season was way below our expectations,” president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones said in a statement Thursday. “We will continue to evaluate our operation and make the necessary changes to reach our championship-caliber goals. We all take accountability, and it’s my job, along with Josh (Bartelstein) and ownership, to build a championship team.”

Gambadoro reported former player J.J. Redick will not be part of the search, as his name has popped up in other coaching searches this cycle.

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups would have support from the Suns’ players, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer. Billups has one more guaranteed season on his contract, but Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reported teams are monitoring the situation in Portland for a potential split.

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