PHOENIX SUNS

Phoenix Suns plan to hire Mike Budenholzer as new head coach, per report

May 10, 2024, 7:16 AM | Updated: 7:29 am

The Phoenix Suns are set to hire Mike Budenholzer to be the team’s new head coach, moving quickly after firing Frank Vogel, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Friday.

The deal is expected to pay out eight-figures per year, Charania adds.

Vogel was fired on Thursday, and the former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Budenholzer was immediately linked as someone who would be prominent in the search, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro went on to report this would be an expedited head-coaching search for the Suns, cut down to just one to three candidates and to be completed by the end of the following week. Budenholzer was mentioned as the favorite for the job.

Budenholzer, 54, took his first break from being an NBA coach last season since before 1996 when he first joined the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. It followed two seasons as a video coordinator. He would go on to hold that assistant position for 17 years before getting hired as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta saw tremendous success with Budenholzer, winning 60 games in his second season when he was named Coach of the Year.

After Budenholzer got the Hawks into the playoffs in Year 1 off a 38-44 record, Atlanta made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where it was swept by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. That would happen again the following year after 48 wins, this time in the second round.

A 43-39 campaign in the 2016-17 season came with another first-round exit, and by then, most of the roster’s core was moving on. Atlanta’s rebuild got underway the next year, with a 24-58 record.

Two weeks later, the Bucks hired Budenholzer in 2018, where he was taking a high-profile job to untap Giannis Antetokounmpo’s full potential and win a championship with one of the NBA’s next superstars in the way his predecessor Jason Kidd could not.

Budenholzer pulled that off. The Bucks won 60 games during the 2018-19 season, returning to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.

Budenholzer won his second Coach of the Year award, and Antetokounmpo got his first Most Valuable Player award. The bubble did not treat the Bucks too kindly, as despite going 56-17, they were beat in six games by the Miami Heat in the second round.

Year 3 is when it all came together. Milwaukee acquired Jrue Holiday, a perfect fit on any basketball team, making the Bucks the preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference. They did, getting by their top competition in the Brooklyn Nets across a seven-game thriller of the second round that ended with Kevin Durant’s infamous “toe on the line” shot that could have changed a whole lot for not only the Bucks and the Nets but the Suns as well.

Milwaukee went on to face the Suns in the NBA Finals, a tremendous six-game series that saw the Bucks come out on top.

The Bucks were certainly expected to be back in the mix and won 51 games before dropping in the second round to the Boston Celtics in seven games.

Buzz from the fanbase being skeptical of Budenholzer that extended back to before the championship picked back up, and even though it was another strong 58-victory run in the 2022-23 season, a massive upset by the Heat in the first round led to Budenholzer’s dismissal. There were also reports of his relationship with Antetokounmpo being strained.

Budenholzer is an Arizona native. He grew up in Holbrook in northern Arizona, where his father Vince won 10 regional titles and one state championship as a high school basketball coach. Vince is in the Arizona High School Athletics Coaches Hall of Fame.

Mike Budenholzer’s aforementioned track record in the regular season speaks for itself and is a coach known for his specialty on offense, where his implementation of a system will be an upgrade after Phoenix’s under Vogel was difficult to identify all season.

Vogel was fired after the Suns were swept in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. They went 49-33 through a regular season littered with warning signs of a team unable to connect to both each other and the coaching staff.

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