The Atlanta Hawks will be allowed to negotiate a contract with San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer during the Spurs’ nine-day break before the beginning of the NBA Finals if Budenholzer is the team’s choice for its next head coach, according to a league source.
Budenholzer has been with the Spurs for 18 years, the last five as Gregg Popovich’s top assistant. He is well regarded around the league and knows Hawks general manager Danny Ferry quite well from Ferry’s days as an executive in San Antonio before being hired last year by Atlanta.
Budenholzer is believed to be the front-runner in Atlanta to replace current coach Larry Drew. Though Drew is still under contract with the Hawks, Ferry has said there is a chance that the team could give Drew, whose current deal expires June 30, a new deal. But both the Hawks and Drew are proceeding as if he will not return.
Drew is scheduled to interview Wednesday in Milwaukee for the Bucks’ vacant head coach job. He and Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson are the finalists for the Bucks’ position; former Lakers assistant Steve Clifford, a third finalist in Milwaukee, was hired Monday by the Bobcats to fill their head coach vacancy.
Budenholzer has also interviewed in Detroit and with the 76ers for their head coach positions. The Pistons are expected to choose this week between former Portland coach Nate McMillan and current Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. McMillan also interviewed with the Hawks, as did former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. But Van Gundy has told teams he is likely to stay out of coaching for at least the next year.
The window for Budenholzer to negotiate a deal was created when San Antonio completed its four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals Monday night. The Finals are locked in for a June 6 start, either in Miami if the Heat defeat the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, or in San Antonio if Indiana comes back to defeat Miami.