Mike Budenholzer has emerged as the centerpiece of the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors‘ coaching searches, and the two teams are preparing to spend the coming days competing for him, league sources told ESPN.
The Raptors opened talks with Budenholzer over the weekend, and those conversations were continuing Monday, league sources said. The Bucks considered Budenholzer their front-runner after the opening round of interviews and are working to re-engage him in talks that will include ownership, league sources said.
Budenholzer, the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year, has shown significant interest in examining both job opportunities.
After the dismissal of highly successful coach Dwane Casey, Toronto is selling the returning core of a 59-win Eastern Conference No. 1 seed, a past NBA Executive of the Year in Masai Ujiri and a streamlined ownership group with immense resources and a willingness to spend.
Milwaukee is selling a transcendent young star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a solid supporting cast and the opening of a new downtown arena next season.
For Budenholzer, the Bucks and Raptors represent the opportunity to return to Eastern Conference contention. Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks parted ways in April, after the two sides could no longer see a path together with the franchise’s rebuilding plans and new management structure.
Before the split, the Hawks gave Budenholzer permission to speak with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks for their coaching openings. He pulled out of contention for the Suns job after several conversations with ownership and management.
Considered one of the NBA’s best tacticians, Budenholzer had been the Hawks president of basketball operations — until surrendering front-office control with the arrival of general manager Travis Schlenk in the spring of 2017.
Budenholzer won his coach of the year award after a 60-victory regular season and trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 2015. The Hawks reached the playoffs in four of his first five seasons. Atlanta dropped to 24-58 this season, with the organization’s mandate to shed salary and gather draft picks and future assets.
Budenholzer spent 17 years as an assistant under San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich before his hiring in Atlanta in 2013. He won four NBA titles as a member of the Spurs’ staff.