• Reuters


The Milwaukee Bucks officially named Mike Budenholzer as the team’s new head coach Thursday.

Budenholzer and the Bucks reportedly agreed in principle to a four-year contract on Wednesday.

“After a thorough coaching search, it was clear that Mike was the ideal choice as we enter into a new era of Bucks Basketball,” said Bucks owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan in a statement. “Mike has demonstrated the ability to lead and communicate, and understands what it takes to build a winning culture. This move puts our organization in a terrific position as we work together toward our collective goal of sustained success and winning championships.”

ESPN reported on Tuesday that Budenholzer, the front-runner for the job, and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, the other finalist, were meeting with ownership in a second round of interviews. Budenholzer met over breakfast with Bucks forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on Wednesday morning before the team extended a formal offer, according to ESPN.

Antetokounmpo indicated he was pleased with the hire.

“He’s a great coach. He was the coach of the year (three seasons ago),” Antetokounmpo told ESPN. “We had a great conversation and talked about the game plan, how he views me as a player, how he can help this team. I had a lot of tough questions for him. But it was fun, I’m excited to play for him.”

Budenholzer, 48, was the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year but was released from his contract with the Atlanta Hawks at the end of this regular season to pursue other opportunities. He spoke with the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks about their respective coaching vacancies earlier this offseason, but he pulled his name out of discussion for the Suns job.

“Mike has played a key role in building successful teams throughout his career,” general manager Jon Horst stated. “He’s widely respected and has shown a special ability to teach and develop players. His leadership, basketball intellect, championship-level experience and communication skills make him the right fit to take our team to the next level.”

Budenholzer went 213-197 in his five seasons in Atlanta, leading the team to four playoff appearances before this season’s 24-58 record. He previously served as a Spurs assistant for 17 years.

“I’m extremely grateful to the Bucks ownership group and Jon Horst to be named the next head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks,” Budenholzer stated. “There are terrific people throughout the organization and together we have a tremendous opportunity to take the Bucks to the next level. I look forward to working with our group of young and exciting players and helping us evolve in many ways to succeed on the court.”

Milwaukee parted with Jason Kidd in January and assistant coach Joe Prunty served the rest of the season as interim head coach. Others to interview for the job this spring included Spurs assistant Becky Hammon — the first woman ever to interview for an NBA head coaching job — and Spurs vice president of basketball operations Monty Williams.

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