The Milwaukee Bucks have fired head coach Mike Budenholzer, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The move comes a week after the No. 1 seed Bucks were eliminated in five games by the No. 8 seed Miami Heat in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Budenholzer helped lead the franchise to its second ever NBA championship in 2021 when Milwaukee defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games in the NBA Finals.
The Bucks were considered the championship favorites heading into the playoffs this year. Instead, they became the first No. 1 seed to ever only win one game in a first round series. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was injured during Game 1 of the series, but returned to play in Game 4 and Game 5, both of which Milwaukee lost.
Budenholzer won 69.3 percent of his games during his five seasons as head coach of the Bucks, amassing a 391-271 overall record.
Budenholzer learned his brother died in a car accident before Game 4 of the first round series against the Heat, according to The Athletic.
The Bucks went from a fringe playoff team to an Eastern Conference power after hiring Budenholzer ahead of the 2018-2019 season. Budenholzer turned a 44-win team into a 60-win team in his first year, and helped Antetokounmpo turn in his first of consecutive MVP runs. The Bucks’ big addition for the Bud era was signing free agent center Brook Lopez ahead of his first season. Milwaukee was up 2-0 on the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, but lost four straight games to end their season.
The Bucks were the No. 1 seed in the East next year, but their momentum was stalled by the global pandemic. Milwaukee was then upset in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs inside the bubble by the Miami Heat.
Milwaukee finally broke through the next year after trading for guard Jrue Holiday following the disaster in the bubble. They outlasted Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in a classic seven-game series in the second round, and defeated the Suns in six games in the 2021 NBA Finals. Antetokounmpo had a masterpiece in the championship clincher, putting up 50 points and making so many clutch free throws.
The last two seasons have featured poor injury luck for Milwaukee. The Bucks were without All-Star forward Khris Middleton when they were eliminated in the second round against the Boston Celtics in the 2022 playoffs. Antetokounmpo’s injury played a factor in their first round exit in the 2023 playoffs.
The two most memorable moments for Budenholzer’s Bucks came during the championship run in 2021. Giannis made this amazing block in Game 4:
In Game 5, Holiday got a steal and threw an alley-oop to Giannis to secure the victory:
The Bucks always had great teams under Budenholzer, but it felt like the franchise had no choice but to fire him after their collapse in the 2023 playoffs. The Bucks’ offense had a history of getting stagnant for a long stretches under Budenholzer, and it finally cost him his job when it happened against Miami. Budenholzer made numerous coaching mistakes in the series, from never changing up his coverages on Heat star Jimmy Butler, to failing to call timeouts at the end regulation and in overtime during the Game 5 loss.
The Bucks are going to feel different next year without Budenholzer. We’ll see what changes are in store next for Milwaukee.