According to the San Antonio Spurs Media Guide, Mike Budenholzer has been with the San Antonio Spurs for 19 years. Well that is about to change as Budenholzer will get his chance to finally be a head coach in the National Basketball Association for the Atlanta Hawks.
Budenholzer was hired by current Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich, who was the Spur’s General Manager at the time, in 1994 as the team’s video coordinator. Two years after that, when Popovich also became the Spur’s head coach in 1996, he became an assistant coach with the team for the past 17 years. He’s been Popovich’s number one assistant for the past six seasons.
According to the USA Today, Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry made the announcement via a press release.
“We are thrilled to have Mike as the next coach of the Atlanta Hawks,” Ferry said in the statement. “He has an incredible basketball acumen and has a keen awareness of the league and what it takes to be successful. His experience and four championships over the last 17 years provide a tremendous foundation for his leadership of our team.”
Ferry and Budenholzer do have a connection. Ferry was first a player with the Spurs from 2000-2003. After he retired in 2003 he took up a front office job with the Spurs.
In 2005 he was named General Manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and built around Lebron James that went to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. In the summer of 2010 Ferry resigned and returned to the Spurs. After another two years with the Spurs Ferry was named Hawks General Manager in 2012.
Budenholzer subsequently released his own statement and had this to say.
“I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization for the last 19 years. I knew it would have to be a tremendous situation for me to leave and clearly coming to Atlanta as the head coach of the Hawks is perfect for me,” Budenholzer said in the statement.
“Ownership’s commitment to taking this organization to the next level and creating a unique and special culture, partnering with a general manager like Danny Ferry who I have great respect for, and building a roster that has terrific potential because of the existing core and the ensuing flexibility presents a rare and uniquely positive opportunity.”
What this move first says is that Popovich isn’t going anywhere as the Spurs head coach for a long time. If he was then the Spurs would have worked hard to make sure that Budenholzer stayed that way when Popovich retired they can make a seamless transition.
As for Popovich, he will miss his long time assistant and friend.
“I couldn’t be happier for Mike for many reasons. As anyone who’s been part of this program knows, he has been more of a co-head coach than an assistant for a long time. His knowledge of the game as well as his ability to teach and develop relationships with players are all special,” Popovich said. “I will miss him a great deal both professionally and personally and am confident that he and Danny will make a great team as the future unfolds.”
Budenholzer gets his chance with a team that went to the playoffs, but was eliminated in the first round by the Indiana Pacers. So, the question is did he learn enough from Popovich to take the Hawks to the next level?
Only time will tell on that one.
By: Paul Kasprzak