The Milwaukee Bucks are once again flirting with a disappointing result in the postseason, and there is growing speculation that head coach Mike Budenholzer might not survive anything less than an NBA Finals appearance.
The Bucks lost the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Brooklyn Nets before winning Game 3 on Thursday night. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on his podcast this week that the team sent Budenholzer a clear message by not extending his contract months ago. The 51-year-old has one year remaining on his deal after this season, but Wojnarowski does not believe he’ll be back next season if Milwaukee finishes with a “thud.”
“If Game 3 was the apex of this series for them, I think it’s very unlikely and very difficult for them to keep Bud,” said Wojnarowski, as transcribed by Real GM. “He has a year left on his deal. They could have extended him early in the season or in the offseason. They chose not to. They were going to really ride this year out. I don’t know if he has to come back and win it… If it ends in a thud, it’s hard to imagine he’s back.
Wojnarowski’s colleague, Malika Andrews, agrees. She believes the Bucks need to at least show “progress” for Budenholzer to keep his job.
So what would progress look like? It’s hard to say. The Bucks finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference two straight years before finishing third (three games back) this season. They blew a 2-0 series lead against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago, but they looked like they were on the verge of breaking out. However, they followed that with a second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Miami Heat last year.
The Nets are the best team in the East, so Bucks management could take that into consideration if Milwaukee goes on to lose the series. That said, this certainly is not the first report we have heard about Budenholzer being on the hot seat.
The Bucks can only be so patient. Their championship window is now, with Giannis Antetokounmpo in his prime. You can understand why they want to see results.
If Budenholzer is fired by Milwaukee, we already know of at least one team that could be interested in scooping him up.