Milwaukee Bucks’ Top Coaching Options

By: Aaron Morse 5/5/2023

The Milwaukee Bucks decided to go ahead and dismiss Mike Budenholzer as the team’s Head Coach. In five seasons with Milwaukee, “Bud” was 271-120 (69.3%) and led the team to the best record in the NBA three time. However, none of those seasons resulted in a Finals appearance.
The breaking point was the Bucks becoming just the sixth team in NBA history to lose in the first round as a one seed. And the fashion it happened in did not help- losing 15 and 16-point fourth quarter leads in back-to-back games to end the season.

We all know Bud is one of the greatest regular season coaches in the league, but it never seems to translate into the playoffs with the biggest knock against him being his lack of adjustments throughout the series.

So, where does Milwaukee turn? Who are the best candidates out there? Who can continue the momentum while also improving the schemes that continuously flamed out?

Tier 1

These coaches are their best options, but it’s not even certain they would entertain the idea of coaching in Milwaukee:

Erik Spoelstra
This one should be straightforward. Currently the coach in Miami, he is fifth all-time in playoff wins behind Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, and Doc Rivers. Spoelstra has won two championships and appeared five times. He always gets the best out of his players no matter their pedigree. But of course, he would need to leave Miami where he has been his entire career.

Ty Lue
Lue was the coach that took over in Cleveland mid-season and led the team to its first and only NBA championship. Now, you can say it was because of LeBron– very true– but Lue has proven to be one of the most underrated coaches in the league. An important factor could be his ability to deal with superstars. He coached LeBron and Kyrie, and now Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and has handled it well. He could do the same in Milwaukee, but he would have to leave LA first.

Steve Kerr
Now this is a long shot. Kerr has the best gig in the league and would be silly to give that up. But, if I were to nitpick: the team is getting old, the locker room seems disjointed, and maybe he would want a new challenge and leave a year early rather than too late. Kerr would bring much needed change to the Bucks’ offense and he isn’t afraid to make random adjustments to get an edge.
Again, this is a long shot but the Bucks should do their due diligence because you just never know.

Tier 2

These are the best coaches who are more likely to jump at the opportunity to coach a perennial contender:

Nick Nurse
Another coach that Bucks fans know too well. Nurse is known for creating “The Wall” against Giannis years ago that led to Milwaukee blowing a 2-0 lead in the Conference Finals and the Raptors going on the win the championship in Kawhi Leonard’s lone year with the team.

Nurse is the heavy favorite amongst Bucks fans and if the three coaches above all say ‘no’ then Nurse should absolutely be the pick. He is great on the defensive side of the ball. He gets the most out of his players and makes wild adjustments on the fly. He isn’t afraid to ditch the original game plan if he sees something they can exploit. Offensively, he does leave a bit to be desired, but with Giannis and a few roster tweaks Nurse can handle the offense just fine.

Kenny Atkinson
Atkinson has been an assistant coach with Golden State for the past two seasons and was able to help the Warriors to a championship last season. Before that, he turned a 20-win Brooklyn Nets team into a playoff team in just two seasons. Then Kyrie and Kevin Durant forced him out. His strength is on the offensive end which would be a big change for a Bucks team that didn’t have much of an offensive identity under Bud.

Tier 3

This is a group that could help in spots, but it’s not a given that it would be a positive change:

Charles Lee
Lee is now the Associate Head Coach in Milwaukee and if the Bucks want to keep him around, they might have to make him the HC. Lee has been getting minor looks for the past few off-seasons but this year seems to be more serious as he already interviewed twice with Detroit.
Lee would be a seamless transition because of his knowledge of the franchise and team, but it would be his first time as a head coach and that probably leads to too much uncertainty. The Bucks need someone who has experience and promoting a coach that was underneath the coach you just fired isn’t always the best idea.

Frank Vogel
Vogel won the title with the Lakers during “The Bubble” so he has championship pedigree. And, he is a brilliant defensive mind with his teams always near the top of the league in defensive rating. The problem here is that Vogel would leave something to be desired on the offensive end and he was run out of LA because he struggled with the bright lights of the big market and coaching multiple superstars. Milwaukee isn’t a big market but Giannis is quite the star.

Mike D’Antoni
He has been around forever and always has a stellar offense. But he doesn’t care about defense- seemingly at all. He has won 56% of his games over 16 seasons as a head coach. He could definitely fix the offensive issues but he has never pushed a team over the top.

Best of the Rest

Mark Jackson: Currently an analyst on ESPN, he was fired as the HC of the Warriors the year before they won their first title.

Becky Hammon: She has picked up some steam within the first 24 hours of Bud being fired, but I am not sold whatsoever on her ability to flip to the NBA and lead the Bucks to a championship. But, she does have championship pedigree in the WNBA so it’s not the worst candidate the Bucks could hire.

Terry Stotts: Helped develop Damian Lillard into an offensive superstar but couldn’t get the Blazers over the edge.