Sixers head coach candidate profile: Mike Budenholzer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Daryl Morey and the Sixers are in the midst of a coaching search to replace Doc Rivers. 

The longtime NBA head coach was fired after failing to get the past second round for the straight season in Philadelphia.

Our series of diving into Sixers head coaching candidates continues with a guy who has gotten over the hump: former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer. 

Like other coaches we highlighted, Budenholzer is on a list of candidates under consideration by the Sixers, Yahoo Sports reports. 


Who is Mike Budenholzer?

Budenholzer was fired as the Bucks’ head coach earlier in May after getting upset by the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. 

The 53-year-old was in Milwaukee for five seasons, from 2018 to 2023, where he won the NBA Finals in the 2020-21 season. Budenholzer’s Bucks became the fifth team in NBA history to win the title after losing the first two games of the series. 

The Bucks had the best record in the NBA in the 2022-23 regular season at 58-24 but lost to Jimmy Butler and the Heat in five games as Giannis Antetokounmpo dealt with an injury and Budenholzer went through the emotions of losing his brother in a car accident. 

Overall, Budenholzer had a 271-120 record in his five years in Milwaukee, which was the best record in the NBA over that stretch. He was named NBA Coach of the Year for the second time in his career in 2019 at the end of his first season with the Bucks. 

Before his time in Milwaukee, Budenholzer was the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. His teams were very successful, but they could never get past LeBron James in the East. The Hawks made the playoffs in four of the five seasons Budenholzer coached, including one trip to the conference finals in the 2014-15 season. 

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – MARCH 29: Head coach Mike Budenholzer (R) speaks with Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on March 29, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

Timothy Nwachukwu / Getty Images

Budenholzer got his start in the NBA in 1994 when he was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator. Two years later, he was promoted by Greg Popovich as an assistant coach. 

In his time in San Antonio, Budenholzer learned alongside Popovich for 17 years. He won four NBA Finals as an assistant with all-time greats like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. 

After Budenholzer played college hoops at Division III Pomona in Claremont, California, he spent one season in Denmark at Vejle Basketball, where he averaged a team-high 27.5 points per game and coached the club’s youth squads. He also briefly played in the Scottish League. 

Budenholzer is the son of a Hall of Fame coach. His father, Vince, spent 25 years coaching high school and college basketball in Arizona and retired in 1997.

Does it make sense?

Budenholzer is one of the many attractive names available on the coaching market. His resume speaks for itself: NBA Finals trophy, three total conference finals appearances, including twice in the past five years, and he was the winningest coach in the league during his time in Milwaukee. 

Some of that has to do with having, Antetokounmpo, one of the best players in the world, but Budenholzer still deserves credit for scheming units to help him earn two MVP Awards.

Budenholzer has proven he can win in two different stops after being a longtime assistant for Popovich in San Antonio. He could hypothetically come in and hit the ground running in Philly as the veteran coach the team needs. 

While Budenholzer did have success in Milwaukee, many believed he was set to get fired in the 2021 playoffs if the team lost to the Brooklyn Nets in the second round. But, the Bucks advanced and were able to win the title thanks to Kevin Durant’s foot being on the line in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semis.  

The Finals win bought him another two seasons, but the franchise believed this year’s meltdown against the Heat was enough to oust Budenholzer. 

One of the many reasons Sixers fans were fed up with Rivers was because of his inability to make adjustments, and that could continue with Budenholzer. 

Despite the wins, Budenholzer’s lack of adjustments in the playoffs has been criticized over the years, especially the way they handled Butler as recently as this round of the playoffs. Similar to Rivers, Budenholzer has had his share of flameouts in the postseason. 

Budenholzer brought stability to Milwaukee and helped the Giannis teams take the next level – something the Sixers hope the next coach can do with Embiid and company.