Bucks co-owner excited about new coach Mike Budenholzer’s ‘system’
MILWAUKEE — Without a single official workout in the books, new Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has already made a strong impression on his new team.
Budenholzer was hired to take Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks to the next level after their progress and development stalled under his predecessor, Jason Kidd, who was fired last January. Interim coach Joe Prunty led Milwaukee to a second consecutive playoff appearance but after the team again failed to get out of the first round, general manager Jon Horst tabbed the 49-year-old to take the reins.
“I think the obvious difference around the team is Bud has a system,” said Wes Edens, one of the franchise’s four primary co-owners. “He has a system that he plays, he has the players that he wants to play in the system. You can see it in practices, you can see it in his approach to the game, I think that’s a material change. I think giving people a job, telling them what their jobs are, hiring the right people for those jobs is essentially what a system really means. It’s had great success in the past, let’s hope it has great success here.”
Budenholzer has spent the past four months meeting with players, going over tape and finding ways to blend his philosophies with the skill set of a roster of maturing talent.
“He has been amazing,” Antetokounmpo said Monday at the team’s annual Media Day. “He’s letting us play, he’s letting us be basketball players.
“I think he’s going to help us. The way we’re going to play this year is going to be totally different. It’s going to give us a lot of open shots, a lot of open 3s.”
Working with Antetokounmpo was a major selling point for Budenholzer.
The 23-year-old finished fourth in the league last season, averaging nearly 27 points a game. With LeBron James taking his talents to the West Coast, Antetokounmpo could become the best player in the Eastern Conference under Budenholzer’s tutelage.
The two have had numerous conversations during the offseason and Budenholzer has been equally impressed with the 6-foot-11 superstar’s performance in informal workouts and pickup games.
“One of the things you always hear about Giannis, whenever you’re talking about him and fortunate enough to be put in this position, is his work ethic,” Budenholzer said. “I would say it’s met or exceeded all of my expectations. He wants to be great, he puts in the time and effort.”
Antetokounmpo headlines a roster that’s largely unchanged since the season ended with a 112-96 loss to Boston in Game 7 of their playoff series.
The Bucks added free agents Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez, veterans who can space the floor and give their teammates room to work while also contributing offensively, but Horst believes the Bucks already have the talent in place to battle Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia for supremacy in what’s suddenly become a wide-open conference.
“With Bud and Giannis, I truly believe we have a path,” Horst said. “We have a direction and a path that we can follow and can take us to success.”
The Bucks open the exhibition schedule on Oct. 3 against the Chicago Bulls in Milwaukee.