ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks have hired San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to be their next head coach.
According to his bio, Budenholzer, 43, graduated from college in 1993, played one year professionally in Denmark and then was hired by the Spurs in 1994 and has remained with them ever since. He has served as an assistant for the past 16 years and the past five as Gregg Popovich’s top assistant.
“We are thrilled to have Mike as the next coach of the Atlanta Hawks. He has an incredible basketball acumen and has a keen awareness of the league and what it takes to be successful,” Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said in a press release. “His experience and four championships over the last 17 years provide a tremendous foundation for his leadership of our team.”
The Arizona native is the youngest of seven children. His father was a high school and college coach who retired in 1997. Somewhat similarly, Ferry’s father was an NBA player and executive.
With the Spurs having swept Memphis on Monday in the Western Conference finals and advanced to the NBA Finals, Ferry had a window with which to negotiate with Budenholzer. The Eastern Conference finals continue on Tuesday with Miami leading 2-1 and will not be complete for several days.
Budenholzer is seeking his fifth championship as an assistant with the Spurs.
“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,” Bodenholzer said.
The Hawks will formally introduce Budenholzer at a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET at Philip Arena.
As Popovich’s top assistant, Budenholzer no doubt learned a great deal about piecing together a winner in the NBA. As Ferry has gone through two stints with San Antonio, the men reportedly share a strong working relationship. It’s no small thing to have the coach and GM on the same page in terms of team building.
As first-time head coaches in almost any professional sport will say, there is a vast difference in being a head coach and being an assistant: in dealing with media, in dealing with players, in dealing with ownership — so much more time (and stress) is devoted to these other duties that assistants do not have to handle.
And for any first-time head coach, there is a certain learning-on-the-job factor, something with which Budenholzer will have to deal.
Budenholzer replaces Larry Drew, whose contract is set to expire on June 30 after three seasons in which he guided the Hawks to three playoff berths. He reportedly is a candidate to become the new coach in Milwaukee.
The hire is Ferry’s first as general manager since taking over last June shortly before the draft.
“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,” Popovich said. “His knowledge of the game as well as his ability to teach and develop relationships with players are all special.”