Milwaukee Bucks season preview: Where Damian Lillard, Adrian Griffin, and the new-look Bucks stand going into the 2023-24 season

By: Noah Nelson 10/6/2023

‘How do we win an NBA Championship?’ is the question on every GM’s mind in the offseason.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, that question has never been more important.

Following two consecutive years with disappointing playoff losses, Giannis Antetokounmpo voiced his concerns about his future with the team, and with the sudden removal of Coach Mike Budenholzer, the stakes have never been higher. Immense pressure was placed on GM Jon Horst to solidify a championship-caliber roster.

With Damian Lillard available via trade, Horst went all in on securing Giannis’ future and beat out teams like the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, and Brooklyn Nets in bagging the seven time All Star.

With athletic rookies, six new coaches, higher energy on the bench and of course Damian Lillard, the Bucks are clearly attempting to transcend the Budenholzer era and usher in a new dynasty in Milwaukee.

Signings, Re-signings, and ‘The Trade’

‘Dame Time’ in the 414

Jon Horst has been Milwaukee’s magician for the past 10 years, and he may have just performed his greatest trick.  

Needing little more than draft picks and fringe stars, Horst has imported three iterations of star point guards to Milwaukee: Eric Bledsoe in 2017, Jrue Holiday in 2020, and Damian Lillard in 2023.

On July 1, 2023, Damian Lillard requested an exclusive trade to the Miami Heat.

On Sept. 27, he was traded to the dark horse Milwaukee Bucks.

After months of silence from Milwaukee’s camp and with little indication of their interest in Lillard, the Bucks somehow acquired the 33-year-old superstar for a ‘measly’ package of Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen and some prospects who are still in middle school (2029 first round pick and the 2028, 2030 first round pick swaps). Portland received more in compensation, bringing in the Suns as a third team partner, acquiring Deandre Ayton before eventually offloading Holiday to the Celtics.

Of course, the loss of Jrue Holiday is painful on the defensive end and what he brought to this team’s culture will be difficult to replace. He was crucial to the Bucks 2021 run and fans should be forever grateful for what he brought to the city.

So, what exactly does Lillard bring to Milwaukee? ‘Dame D.O.L.L.A’ adds another dimension to this Milwaukee offense and his three-level scoring ability will likely open the floor for Giannis and co. to find more open looks. The pick and roll game with Giannis will be virtually unstoppable and the team is likely to be a gear or two faster in the half court.

More importantly, he’s one of the most recognizable big-moment players in the league. With the Trailblazers, he was a part of four playoff series wins. In two of them, he hit the series winning shot. Lillard embraces the last two minutes of games and when paired with Giannis and Middleton, the Bucks will have three proven clutch playoff scorers. Again, no disrespect towards Jrue Holiday, but he shot 40% and 36% in the last two playoff series losses for Milwaukee.

Essentially, the offense just leveled up twice and where the defense may struggle, the Bucks accommodate for with one of the best fitting duos in league history.

Re-signings – Starters

Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez were the two biggest concerns for Milwaukee on the player retention side of this offseason, both on expiring deals with reported interest around the league. Losing Lopez would be a gut shot for the Bucks, so the team went all in on the aging center, offering a two-year $48 million contract, beating out the Rockets similar bid. Khris Middleton’s free agency was short lived as well. He agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $102 million and underwent a successful surgery on his nagging right knee injury. With the core returning, focus transferred to the bench, which, after losing 9 part-time contributors, needed intense renovations. 

Re-signings – Bench

The Bucks biggest move of the 2022-23 trade deadline was for 32-year-old Jae Crowder, presumably for his playoff presence, yet he only played 30 playoff minutes in the five-game loss to Miami. He was reportedly, “confused as to why [he] was brought here,” however, he re-signed in the offseason for 1 year $3.19 million in the weeks following Budenholzer’s removal. He seemingly believes in this team and will likely have a greater role next season under Griffin’s adapted leadership strategies.

AJ Green is the other bench re-signing, agreeing to 3 years, $6.32 million. He’s a shooter and he eclipsed 40% from three in his limited minutes last season, which in the modern NBA can keep a player on the court and pay them well for it (Duncan Robinson $90 million). The depth of this Milwaukee team does limit Green’s time, however, and he will likely see mostly blowout minutes or early second-half small ball time, though he could work his way up in the rotation.

The Energy Guys

In the 2019-20 season, the Bucks dove headfirst into creating a familial environment, becoming the only NBA team in history to have two sets of brothers on their team at the same time, signing Robin Lopez to a 1-year deal and Thanasis Antetokounmpo to a multi-year minimum contract.

Now, following three years on three different teams, Brook Lopez’s younger brother (by one minute) is back in Milwaukee. While neither of these guys is good enough to play for this Bucks team consistently, they make their teammates better and create an environment that conjures winning, which one could argue is more valuable than what another veteran minimum guy might provide.

Remember Thanasis’s play against Brooklyn? How about WrestleMania pregame? The front office knows that Thanasis and Robin won’t give you 20 points per game, but they are essential to the team environment and culture necessary to reach, and win, the NBA Finals.

Fresh Meat – Malik Beasley & Cameron Payne

What if there was a way that the Bucks could replace Joe Ingles for someone nine years younger for a fraction of the cost who just made the most bench threes a season ago? One would expect Jon Horst to jump all over that.

And he did, signing Malik Beasley to a 1 year/$2.7 million deal. By bringing in a sharpshooter like Beasley and doing it on a veteran minimum, the Bucks replace the older, slower Ingles for a volume bench scorer who’s never had completely reconstructed knees. But there’s a slight catch. Beasley went to jail in 2020 for waving a rifle at strangers in his neighborhood. His off-court offenses may make GMs wary, but the Jazz and the Lakers have both given Beasley opportunities since the incident, and there are signs of personal development that can hopefully translate to Milwaukee on a team friendly deal.

The backup guard spot has been filled as well with Jae Crowder’s former teammate Cameron Payne. Payne is coming in as a double-digit scorer and is likely to provide a spark from the bench, but if not, he at least provides another option for the Bucks at the guard. The backup guard spot was a glaring weakness for Milwaukee this summer, and Payne could be the right player to finalize this roster.

As the last contracted player in the 14-player team, he brings the Bucks payroll to $183.68 million and ups the team’s luxury tax to almost $58 million.

Young Bucks

Gone are the days of the high-IQ, unathletic, low-ceiling, second rounders that fans have become so accustomed to during the Budenholzer era.

Unfortunately, due to investments in the present, the team is essentially bone dry when it comes to future first rounders, but the team has had success in the second round in the past. While Brogdon clearly overachieved, teams find value in round two every year, and maybe it’s Milwaukee’s time again.

Andre Jackson Jr. (Pick No. 36)

Despite averaging a ‘measly’ 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists last season in college, the Bucks first pick in 2023, Andre Jackson Jr., impacted winning beyond the stat sheet, helping propel the UConn Huskies to their fifth national championship.

UConn’s coach Dan Hurley praised him as a “tone setter,” and said that Jackson, “genuinely cares more about our success than his own production.” His maturity is not the only reason why Milwaukee traded up for him: he is an NBA-ready talent with a high basketball IQ and elite size/speed. Jackson’s 39 ½-inch vertical and 3.14 second three-quarter sprint both ranked in the top five in the draft combine, and he was considered ‘A Dunker From The Gods’ during his time in high school at The Albany Academy. While he still has work to do offensively, mainly with his shooting mechanics, Jackson hangs his hat on the defensive end.

Here’s the skinny on Jackson: he’s a superb athlete with a seemingly endless motor – a true immediate impact guy for this Bucks team. Think Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s energy but in a more coordinated, pass first guard who can both find and throw down an alley-oop in transition.

Chris Livingston (Pick No. 58)

The Bucks second of two picks was another NBA-ready athlete and the final overall pick in the 2023 draft, Chris Livingston.

Note: NBA-ready athlete. Livingston is still underdeveloped skill-wise and likely a developmental piece at this stage. Widely considered the best Akron prospect since Lebron, Livingston underperformed at Kentucky as a freshman in 2022-23, and though he came in as a projected lottery pick, he seriously considered returning to college to boost his draft stock. During the buildup to the draft, Livingston cancelled his last seven pre-draft workouts, fueling belief that he had a guaranteed deal lined up later in the draft. Of course, he did have a deal with the Bucks: a four-year, $7.7 million deal which is the most guaranteed money of any final pick in the draft.

Coaching Overhaul

Head Coach Adrian Griffin

“They’ll never know how much you know, until they know how much you care.” 

  • Adrian Griffin, June 6, 2023, in his first official press conference as Bucks Head Coach

In the offseason following the loss to the eight seed Heat, the Milwaukee Bucks parted ways with Mike Budenholzer in favor of Raptors Lead Assistant Adrian Griffin. A former NBA player himself, he understands how to gain a player’s trust and connect with his team. Since the NBA-ABA merger, only five first-year coaches have won the finals, however, in the last eight years there have been three: Steve Kerr in 2015, Tyronn Lue in 2016, and most recently Nick Nurse in 2019 (Griffin was lead assistant for Nurse at the time). The Bucks, of course, hope Griffin can continue this trend, but the responsibility does not rest solely on his shoulders – more than half of the game-night coaching staff have been replaced.

The Rest of the Staff

In total, six new coaches were hired for the Bucks, but fans may recognize some of these ‘new hires’ from their past time spend with Milwaukee. Assistants Terry Stotts and Joe Prunty have both acted as head coach for the team – Stotts from 2005-’07 and Prunty as the interim coach following the firing of Jason Kidd. Coincidentally, Stotts coached Damian Lillard until 2021 which may have tipped the needle in his willingness to come to Milwaukee.

In addition, two members of the Raptors organization are following Griffin: Patrick Mutombo and Nate Mitchell. Rounding out the new hires is D.J. Bakker who last coached for Detroit’s G-League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise, in 2023.

Returning on the coaching staff are former Bucks All-Star Vin Baker and Josh Oppenheimer, who’s on his second stint with the Bucks and has also coached Giannis on the Greek national team (2022). In a historic move, Sidney Dobner is being promoted from head video coordinator and will be the first female assistant coach in franchise history, which Griffin highlighted as his, “best hire”.

The preseason starts on October 8th, so fans will be able to see this new Bucks team in action very soon. On paper, they’re cohesive. They’re experienced. They want to win, and they want to win now. Is Milwaukee ready for another parade? 82 games and the playoffs will prove if this ‘rebuild’ was effective, all fans can do now is wait to see.

Quick Hits – Names to Know

Lindell Wiggington – Two-way contract, your new favorite G-League microwave, Iowa State alumni

TyTy Washington – Two-way contract, 2022 first-round pick, another Kentucky guy

Omari Moore – Two-way contract,NBA ready frame, project prospect

Jazian Gortman – Training camp contract, OTE League alumni, elite talent

Tacko Fall – 7’6”, worst free throw form ever(?), signed with the Nanjing Monkey Kings

Drew Timme – Gonzaga legend, skilled but undersized, seems like he’ll stay in the G-League

Jimmy Haslam – Browns owner w/ minority stake (25%) in MKE, proven he’s willing to spend

Sidney Dobner – Dislikes glass ceilings, former college baller, more than just a diversity hire

Marjon Beauchamp – 83(!!!) points in Crawsover Pro-Am, defensive wing with energy, second year jump incoming?

Jrue Holiday – Bucks legend, less than glorious exit, Celtics revenge series potential

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Got his coach, team built around him, two years left on his deal, ready to win again

Wisconsin Transitioning Into Golf Powerhouse Led by the Stricker-Tiziani Family

By: Noah Nelson 6/28/2023

90 years ago, the state of Wisconsin held its first major golf tournament – the PGA Championship at Blue Mound Country Club in Wauwatosa.

Since then, the state has held three more PGA’s, a U.S. Open, a U.S. Senior Open, multiple U.S. Women’s Open’s, and a Ryder Cup.

The most recent event, the 2021 Ryder Cup, was captained by Wisconsin native Steve Stricker, who, as a non-playing captain, helped lead the United States to a decisive 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits – the state’s premier golf course.

Stricker has championed golf in the state for decades. Growing up in Edgerton, he won WIAA state as an individual in 1984, and as an amateur in 1987, he won the Wisconsin State Open.

Surprisingly, after high school, Stricker went to the University of Illinois. Many people, including then-Wisconsin coach Dennis Tiziani, were shocked by this decision, having expected Stricker to stay in the state. It turned out to be the right choice; he went on to be one of the most decorated golfers in Illinois’ history, winning three Big Ten Individual Conference Titles while helping his team claim the Big Ten Conference Championship in 1988.

Although he may have been surprised, Tiziani remained supportive. Stricker highlighted, “…one thing he said was, ‘No matter what happens, don’t be afraid to call’.”

So, in the summer before his junior year, he did.

Stricker contacted Tiziani, and the two began working together at Cherokee Country Club, the course that Dennis owned just outside of Madison. In that same summer, Stricker began dating Tiziani’s daughter, Nicki, who was Wisconsin’s best women’s golfer at the time. The two married in 1993, and their family has continued to dominate golf in the state.

Their daughters – Izzi and Bobbi – both play and are extremely successful. Bobbi won the Wisconsin Women’s Amateur Championship in 2021 and more recently, Izzi won WIAA State in 2022.

The Tiziani family’s roots in Wisconsin golf run even deeper than just their connection to Stricker – Dennis was a PGA professional himself, as was his brother. In 1976, Dennis won the Wisconsin State Open, and in 1978, his brother, Larry won it as well.

Dennis is also the longest tenured golf coach in Wisconsin history with 40 combined years with the university, including 26 with the men and 14 with the women. Upon Dennis’ retirement from coaching golf in 2003, former Wisconsin Athletic Director Pat Richter said of Tiziani’s tenure, “Dennis Tiziani IS Wisconsin golf,” and while he may not be a coach anymore or the competitive player he once was, he still holds influence in the state’s golf environment today.

On May 23, 2022, the PGA Tour’s Tournament Players Club (TPC) Network announced that Dennis’ Cherokee Country Club would become the 30th TPC location, rebranding to TPC Wisconsin. The course is undergoing a significant redesign led by Stricker, who holds great sentimentality to the location, saying of the project, “I couldn’t ask for a better scenario with my first golf course design project to be the same property that I spent the better part of 30 years of my golf career and where I have raised my family.”

The course is scheduled to re-open in August 2023 and will be the next high-caliber golf course in the state of Wisconsin.

Dennis’ son Mario has also been personally involved in the course:

Mario Tiziani was a former professional golfer himself and has won a Wisconsin State Open of his own, continuing his family’s dominant legacy. He also played under his father at Wisconsin, winning the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year and captaining the team in his last few years in Madison.

He went on to play golf professionally, and after many attempts, he graduated from the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School in 2004. His professional career was short lived, however; Mario quit professional golf in 2010 and showed little interest in attempting to rejoin any competitive league. That was until 2020, when he was offered a sponsor’s exemption to play at the PGA Champions American Family Insurance Championship (AmFam Championship for short).

His brother-in-law, Stricker, is the tournament host of the AmFam Championship, which helped soften Tiziani’s nerves enough to convince him to play his first competitive golf in over a decade. In his return to competition, Tiziani shot +7 during the three days of competition and tied for 71st. He continued to compete on the tour, placing tied for 11th in his next event, earning over $40,000 in the process. He has continued to make a name for himself, placing in the top 10 multiple times in the past two seasons of competition.

The AmFam Championship has done more than just revive careers of former golfers; the event has connected with hundreds of charity sponsors since the event began in 2016, raising over $14 million for charity and providing grants for 700 organizations. Wisconsin golf legend Andy North complimented the event and its mission, saying, “The way Madison has supported the event from day one, what Am Fam has done from day one, it’s a great marriage, and we’ve created a ton of money for a lot of people who can use it here in town.”

Currently, the event is held at the University of Madison’s home course, University Ridge, but in 2025, TPC Wisconsin will replace U-Ridge as the event’s venue. Before the event, Stricker and a group of high-ranking PGA officials toured TPC Wisconsin to determine its viability as a pro-level course. Stricker said, “Yeah, we walked around it yesterday [June 5, 2023] with… Brian Claar, the rules official, and then the design team of the PGA TOUR… it should be a good test of golf and hopefully one that people are going to enjoy and play,”.

Moving the event to a Stricker-designed, Tiziani-owned course will increase the family’s influence in Wisconsin golf and will allow the AmFam Championship to be sustainable for years to come.

The AmFam Championship is not the only PGA Tour Champions event in the state this year. The 2023 U.S. Senior Open is coming to Stevens Point’s SentryWorld from June 29-July 2. The event is the third major championship of five on the PGA Champions Tour’s annual schedule and is only the second senior major ever in Wisconsin. Stricker has won both majors so far this year and is looking to become one of three golfers ever to win three senior majors in the same season; the other two golfers are Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, some elite company to say the least.

Wisconsin golf has grown into a powerhouse in the last 25 years, due in large part to the increased development of championship-level courses hosting major events. However, these major events are not annual, leaving gaps in Wisconsin’s golf schedule. This year’s U.S. Senior Open is similar: a major event that will not return to the state in the immediate future. The American Family Championship is different; it provides the state with a consistent event, suitable for all ages and demographics.

While many of the high-level events in the state have been one-offs, their contribution to the growth of golf in the state cannot be understated.

Mario Tiziani agrees:

When the AmFam Championship switches to TPC Wisconsin in 2025, the Stricker-Tiziani influence in Wisconsin golf will only increase. The new venue will take Stricker’s design and incorporate it into his own event, hosted at the course where he and his family have played for over 30 years, creating an incredibly sentimental environment for the Edgerton native.

As golf continues to grow in Wisconsin, the Stricker-Tiziani families will remain at the center. Stricker’s dominance of the PGA Tour Champions has provided him a platform to grow the game of golf in the state, not just at the AmFam Champ, but at the Ryder Cup as well. Time will tell if Stricker can continue winning, but one fact remains certain: competitive golf in Wisconsin isn’t going away any time soon, thanks to the efforts of the Stricker-Tiziani families.

Winona State’s Cooper Lipski Ready to Broadcast Loggers Season

By: Noah Nelson 5/26/2023

“If you told me last year that I would be the [La Crosse] Logger’s broadcaster, at first I’d say it’s a joke,” Cooper Lipski said, somewhat sheepishly. But anybody who’s met Cooper knows that the position is perfect for him. A born entertainer, Lipski’s often-rambunctious antics have allowed the Winona State senior to work his way up in broadcasting, and he will be taking the booth for the first time as the Logger’s official broadcaster at their first home game on May 30.

Lipski has deep ties to sports, competing in high school basketball and baseball. As a basketball player, he never made a strong impact on the floor, but Lipski was the life of the bench. He would announce games for his fellow end-of-the-bench riders and breathe life into JV high school basketball. He even had a color commentator, crediting Tyler ‘Zayo’ Christianson with providing insights into the games.

Cooper’s connections to the Loggers reach far into his childhood. Lipski, a ‘local guy from Westby’, recounts his earliest memories with Loggers baseball, going with his ‘old man’ for his birthday. He continued to attend games throughout his life, “Going to games with [my friends] [Noah] Benish, Conor [Vatland], Gavin [Bergdahl] as we’ve gotten older it’s gotten more fun, being able to legally drink.” Trading the bottle for the microphone, Lipski will still be able to enjoy the games himself while providing the joy of sports to others.

The ‘voice of Winona State athletics’ began his broadcasting journey by taking the right class as a freshman. “I was in an introduction class, and I asked, ‘how do you become a sports announcer’ and he said, ‘you’re in the right introduction class Coop.’” Lipski’s professor, Doug Westerman, has a storied history as a broadcaster, travelling for years and working with numerous communications organizations.

Westerman has provided insights to Lipski, acting as his broadcasting ‘coach’ and given him connections to other high-ranking broadcasters in the area. He recounts a story before a Winona State football game where Westerman was on the phone with Badgers broadcaster Matt Lepay, “I say, ‘tell Matt I said hi’ and I hear Matt Lepay say, ‘Hey Coop, good luck on the broadcast today!’” Westerman’s connections and dedication to his students has had a strong influence on Lipski’s professional development, providing him with opportunities and advice on how to improve as a broadcaster.

Though he did have the experience at Winona State, the Loggers opportunity spawned from an off-handed comment Lipski made to a fellow Winona State sports media personality who had previously worked for the team. Cooper recounts the conversation, “So I’m like ‘ha-ha, yeah you can get me a job that would be kind of fun’ and he goes ‘no, seriously there might be an opening.’”

A few months later, the friend, Tyler Gliem, brought it up again, suggesting Cooper send a resume and application letter. “I didn’t have a resume – my [resume] would be, you know, rock picking, coaching little league baseball, stuff like that.” What he lacked in his resume, he made up for with his past broadcasting experiences.

He sent them a “big, long list” with all his relevant experience, highlighting work with Leighton Broadcasting, and KQAL [Winona State University’s radio station]. There was nothing to do now but wait for a response. A week passed; nothing. Another week passed by; still nothing. On the third week, just before Christmas, Lipski heard back from his Loggers connection expressing mutual interest, hearing, “We are definitely considering you… you’re one of two guys we’re looking at.”

Considerations continued with the help of Gliem’s good word, endorsing Cooper to Loggers General Manager Ben Kapanke. Eventually, the two met and, “Apparently the interview went well enough that I got the job.” He remains humble, yet it is obvious that he has the talent and experience to succeed as the Loggers broadcaster.

The new position has not yet fully settled in for Lipski; he stated, “It feels surreal in a way. I don’t think it will set in until I’m there on Tuesday with the headset on going ‘Welcome to Copeland Park, Home of the Loggers.’” He’ll be in the booth for webcasted home games and on the radio with team for away games. Games will be streamed on and there will be numerous games on ESPN+, renewing their contract from the previous year.

The La Crosse Loggers new voice is ready to enter the booth and make an impact. Cooper Lipski will begin his journey as a semi-professional baseball announcer at the May 30 home opener, and he could not be more excited, exclaiming, “I love the Loggers, what can I say – Roll Logs!” The Loggers start ‘rolling’ on May 29, beginning their 72-game summer season on the road against the Eau Claire Express.

Picture by Keaton Riebel, The Winonan

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.

Lexi Donarski Talks Transfer Portal

By: Aaron Morse 4/21/2023

**Edit: Lexi has decided to transfer to the University of North Carolina**

Maybe (probably) the best female basketball player to ever play in the Coulee Region decided to enter the very popular transfer portal.

Lexi Donarski drew interest from top schools all over the country during high school but none of it ever manifested into a real recruitment because she decided before high school that she would attend Iowa State. Now, she gets to go through that process for the first time after deciding Iowa State wasn’t the best for her future aspirations. Recently, Lexi joined ‘The Sports Lead’ and was asked about the experience:

Lexi had numerous amounts of success at Iowa State, both individually and as a team. In three seasons she started in all 95 of her appearances averaging over 13 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game. But, her biggest contribution at this point in her career as been on the defensive side. She became the first player in Cyclones history to be named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in the ’21-’22 season while also making the All-Defensive team in each of the last two seasons.
That’s on top of being named All-Big 12 (2022), All-Big 12 Honorable Mention (2023), All Big 12 Tournament Team (2023), Big 12 Freshman of the Year (2021), Unanimous Big 12 All-Freshman Team (2021), and Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 (2023).
As a team, the Cyclones went 67-28 with Donarski, they won their first conference tournament since 2001 this past season, and made a Sweet 16 appearance in 2022.

So with all that success, why transfer?

A team that can help showcase her offensive abilities is a big factor in getting Lexi to the next level. Especially, if she is able to show that she’s a two-way player.

The last step now is figuring out where to play and a decision is coming soon:

Keep an eye out for that choice because it could certainly lead to a spot in the WNBA.

UWL Football Ready For Program-Defining Game

By: Aaron Morse 9/29/2022

The Eagles have built their program back up over the years for a matchup exactly like this. Last season, they made huge progress. It was their most wins since 2006 (9) and made their first playoff appearance and collected their first playoff win since that same 2006 season, they scored 58 points in that game (most in program history for a playoff game), and finished 11th in the D3 rankings. The end to their season? A 34-20 loss to the top team in the country.
They return nine All-Conference players, including three first-teamers, and were ranked tenth in the preseason rankings picked to finish second in the WIAC. Needless to say, there are high expectations for UWL this season.

Of course, the team picked ahead of them in the WIAC is perennial powerhouse, UW-Whitewater. UWL has never beat the Warhawks (0-8) and average just over eleven points per game. But, the Eagles are closing the gap losing the last two matchups by four and six points. Last year’s game saw UWL drive 77 yards in just over two minutes but ran out of time 18 yards away from winning the game. Point is, it has been close. The Eagles know. The Warhawks know it. And everyone knows this is a chance for the Eagles to prove they are a real threat to win the National Championship. UWL Head Coach Matt Janus knows that turns that from an important game to a program-changing game:

He is not worried, though. He knows his guys are ready for the challenge:

He also knows Whitewater is a different animal and they have to be ready for the best offense and defense they will see all season long:

UWL runs a true dual-quarterback system, something that hardly ever works at any level of football. Hence the saying, if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.” But the Eagles have made it work and work well. Here is one of those quarterbacks, Keyser Helterbrand on the system:

Whitewater’s history of success is not lost among the UWL locker room, which Keyser says makes it more exciting:

So how does a team that clearly is talented enough and well-coached get over the hump and finally beat a Warhawks team that has been a thorn in the side of nearly every team in Division 3 for years? Helterbrand shares:

With a win, UWL will take its #8 ranking and move into the top-five in the entire country. Talk about a program-changing victory.

If you would like to listen to the full interviews with Head Coach Matt Janus and/or BOTH UWL quarterbacks, go to our podcasts page!

Bangor and Cashton Set for Classic Rivalry Matchup

By: Aaron Morse 9/21/2022

Bangor and Cashton have had some great moments and games over its history of rivalry matchups but the one coming up on Friday could be one of the best.

This game would be talk of the towns even if both teams were 0-5. But that is not the case. Actually, the exact opposite. Both teams are 5-0 and are ranked in their respective divisions; Cashton is #2 in D7 and Bangor is #9 in D6.

Last season, Bangor got the best of the Eagles in the regular season with a 17-13 win, but Cashton got them back in the playoffs with a big 34-14 victory in Level 2. This season, however, a playoff matchup will not happen because of the different divisions, so this game is for ALL the bragging rights until next year.

Cashton’s Head Coach Jered Hemmersbach talks about what this rivalry means to each side:

As for Bangor, Head Coach Todd Grant says there is a different atmosphere around town this week:

This game will essentially decide who wins the Scenic Bluffs conference, and the teams (and the towns, for that matter) would not have it any other way. And if you play to be in Cashton for the game, get there early for a good seat because Grant thinks basically all of Bangor will be making the short trip over:

La Crosse Tribune- Todd Sommerfeldt

You can find the full interviews with both coaches below:

Jered Hemmersbach on The Sports Lead with John Pappadopoulos
Todd Grant on The Sports Lead with John Pappadopoulos

Badgers Fall One Spot in AP Rankings

By: Aaron Morse 9/6/2022

The Wisconsin Badgers football team dominated, as expected, in week one with a 38-0 victory over the Illinois State Redbirds. However, apparently that was not enough to impress the voters as the Badgers dropped from #18 to #19 in the rankings.

First off, these rankings do not mean too much. In the coaches poll, the Badgers moved from #20 to #18. But still, neither of those polls have any influence on where the Badgers will fall in the College Football Playoff Rankings. Those are completely separate with a completely different room of voters with completely different views on how to rank teams.

With that being said, the Badgers were originally 33-point favorites and by kickoff jumped up to 36.5-point favorites are covered that spread. They handled their business and then some. Yet, voters moved them down. Why? Who knows. But there are some plausible reasons. For one, other teams can impress in week one and a lot of movement can happen because of a more prediction-based preseason ranking, i.e., Florida jumping from unranked to #12. For two, the Badgers did struggle to begin the game and allowed Illinois State to control the time of possession.
Teams do that, though. It happens to a lot of good teams early on. And they rally back and play better. Or in Wisconsin’s case, a lot better.
Another reason, bias. Bias plays a part in these rankings no matter how many times voters say it does not. If say an SEC team like Arkansas or Kentucky (similarly ranked) were to have had the same outcome that Wisconsin had, would they have moved down a spot? Maybe, but probably not. They most likely stay put at their original ranking. But not for Wisconsin; they slip one spot.

Again, these rankings do not matter very much, if at all, in the grand scheme of things. The rankings that do matter do not arrive until November 2nd (after week 9). But it’s still fun to see where your team gets placed after each performance (especially wins) and then subsequently, being upset about them… Unless you root for Alabama.

The Badgers are currently preparing to host Washington State on Saturday with kickoff at 2:30.

Why I think Rashan Gary Will Win Defensive Player of the Year

By: Jordy Ramirez 8/3/2022

Coming into his fourth season, Rashan Gary is primed for a huge season due to the improvements that he has made to his game and the talented cast of players that surround him. Last season, Gary had 9.5 sacks, 28 QB hits, and 53 pressures in 16 regular season appearances. In eight of the last ten seasons, the AP Defensive Player of the Year award has gone to players who get after the quarterback. This award is primarily a pass rusher’s award in today’s pass happy league and Rashan Gary has a good chance to be holding the award at the end of the season.

Scouting Rashan Gary

Rashan Gary has never lacked athleticism which is what sets apart players at rushing the passer. For Gary, it was learning the art (fundamentals and technique) of getting to the quarterback over the past three seasons. Gary has quick get-off, timing up the snap very well, using burst and speed to set offensive lineman up to his liking. His patented pass rush attack is getting tackles to overset, using an inside long arm to widen the tackle even more, and ripping through with his outside arm for an inside track to the quarterback. This move accounted for most of his sacks and pressures in 2021.

Not only did Gary do a great job of getting to the quarterback, but he was also stout against the run. Keeping contain, crashing down the line of scrimmage, getting tackles for losses, and setting hard edges to close running lanes are where he specialized last season. These skills mixed with a relentless motor and a physical mindset allowed Gary to thrive in the run game.

The Argument for DPOY

As it stands now, Rashan Gary has the 9th best odds at +3500 to win the award. The fourth year outside linebacker has not only gotten better by the season, it seemed as if he got better by the week in 2021. I think his best game was against the Niners in the Divisional game where the defense was nearly fully healthy but his performance got overlooked by the eventual outcome of the game. He racked up two sacks and a critical tackle for loss on a 4th and one run play in the middle of the fourth quarter. From my eye, he looked to be one of the best players on the field each and every play.

Not only has Gary individually gotten better, seemingly the cast around him has as well. On paper, Green Bay’s defense bolsters one of the more talented groups in the NFL which will only benefit Gary’s production. Having a healthy Jaire Alexander, ascending Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas who sparked a different type of energy to Green Bay’s defense last year will only allow for more time to get to the quarterback. Mix in a couple of safeties who compliment each other very well, a linebacker duo who are great in coverage, and a defensive line which suddenly shows depth/versatility and there’s a recipe for Rashan Gary to be the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Packers First Round Picks’ Strengths and Weaknesses

By: Jordy Ramirez 7/27/2022

The two Georgia Bulldogs drafted in the first round will be asked to contribute in a considerably large fashion during their first season and add to what is widely considered a top 10 defense in the NFL. With that being said, here is where I think Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt’s strengths and weaknesses are heading into training camp.

Quay Walker

Walker, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, was not a popular selection to go in the first round mock drafts prior to the draft. The Georgia linebacker is all of 6’4”, 240 pounds from what I could see at OTA’s/rookie minicamp and he moves with speed, twitch, balance, and flexibility. Walker has an old-school linebacker build with the physical traits of the new breed NFL linebackers. Much has been made of Walker’s ability to cover up running backs, tight ends, and even wide receivers from time to time (Walker had a PBU while in coverage against 18th overall pick Treylon Burks). This even showed up in this year’s off-season workouts. Walker’s ability to mirror, break on, and anticipate routes shined when the offensive player is supposed to have the advantage in these non-padded practices. Walker seemed to always be in position to make a play on the ball and did so in many reps. Walker coupled with De’Vondre Campbell has the potential to be considered one of the best pass coverage LB duos in the NFL. From what I have seen from the Packers first selection in this year’s draft, I do not see pass coverage being an issue. It is the run game where I see the biggest flaw in Walker’s game. Walker’s problem is not tackling as he meets ball carriers with stopping power, minimizes yards after contact, and rarely misses tackles. Where he struggles is diagnosing the run, over pursuing the ball carrier (which leads to cutback lanes) and trusting his eyes/instincts to trigger downhill. Seeing how Joe Barry and Green Bay’s defensive coaching staff implement Walker into different packages based on down and distance with Krys Barnes still in the mix will be something to keep a close eye on during camp.

Devonte Wyatt

I have heard the statement “Get Kenny Clark help!” more than I cared to this past season and Green Bay hopes to have done so by drafting Wyatt with the 28th overall pick. At 6’3”, 304 pounds, the former Georgia Bulldog has great interior defensive line versatility. This will allow for Joe Barry to use many different fronts to utilize the varying skill sets of the players at his disposal in Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, TJ Slaton, Jarran Reed, and Wyatt. Where I see Wyatt’s game blossoming in his first season for the Packers is in pass rushing downs. Green Bay’s primary nickel front will probably look something like Gary, Wyatt, Clark, and Smith. Wyatt has the chance to flourish as the proven players around him may receive more attention in pass protection schemes which would in turn allow for more one-on-one opportunities. Wyatt has great get off, pop in his hands, twitchy feet, lateral quickness, and incredible speed (4.77 40 yd) for an interior defensive lineman which will lead to success in those passing downs. Like the story with his teammate at Georgia (Quay Walker), my concerns with Wyatt come in the run game. From what I have seen on tape, Wyatt tends to lower his head at the point of attack, get washed out of plays because of his inability to anchor, and get swallowed up by blocks because of his lack of length (restricts his ability to stack and shed) which may only be magnified more in the NFL. I see Wyatt being more of a rotational player to start in Green Bay’s base defense and utilized more in obvious passing situations. I would guess Wyatt’s usage will vary on a week-to-week basis and be more dependent on run scheme (I see him doing better against zone running schemes than man/gap) and personnel groupings.