Had Danny Ferry not been forced into a leave of absence in September 2014, Budenholzer’s tenure might have turned out differently. As it was, he slipped into the GM’s chair and found – shocker! – that he liked being his own boss. Soon the Hawks were en route to 60 wins and the higher-ups were in such thrall that there was never a chance new ownership would dare to ruffle Bud’s tender sensibilities by bringing back Ferry, who actually built the 60-win team.
News flash: Being a good coach doesn’t make you a shrewd czar of basketball. (He thought he could coach Dwight Howard. Nobody can coach Dwight Howard.) Budenholzer’s Hawks didn’t win 60, or even 50, again. Within two years, they were barely above .500. He accepted his demotion to coach-only, but clearly didn’t like it. Twelve months ago, this correspondent suggested his forced marriage with Travis Schlenk would last a year. Bingo.
Budenholzer interviewed with the Suns and the Knicks while still employed here, whereupon the Hawks decided enough was enough. They severed relations that were essentially severed long ago. (To my knowledge, Budenholzer has yet to speak for the record with any Atlanta-based reporter about leaving the city in which he worked for five years.) He then interviewed with the Raptors and the Bucks. The latter club has given him what he presumably wanted all along – a chance to coach Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Budenholzer figures to render the Greek Freak even freakier. That’s what he does. And with LeBron perhaps taking his talents West, there should be room to move in the East. Still, the Celtics and the 76ers seem primed in a way the Bucks, who finished seventh in East, are not. Bud will make his new team better. But, as skilled as he is, he’s not Pop. He’s not Brad Stevens, either.