Hawks’ Budenholzer: ‘I’m Living A Dream’


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ATLANTA – After nearly two decades of helping to build one of the finest operations in all of sports, of working with and learning from one of the masters in Gregg Popovich, why leave now?

Why leave San Antonio after what could be Pop’s last stand, the last championship ride for the mighty Spurs with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili at the controls?

Why now, instead of one of the countless other times over the years when some team came calling?

Mike Budenholzer answered the question before anyone could ask it during his introductory news conference at Philips Arena this morning. The new coach of the Atlanta Hawks was quick to point out the three critical elements that led him to his first head coaching job after 17 years as an assistant in San Antonio.

First up was a committed ownership group. Next came the presence of Hawks GM Danny Ferry and, finally, the roster flexibility Ferry created. That flexibility will allow these two ex-colleagues and current friends to work hand-in-hand crafting a team from the ground up into the mold they both envision, each of them no doubt using their Spurs experience as a template.

We need to be clear about one thing, though: this hire never happens without Ferry. The Hawks succeeded where plenty of other franchises have failed in the past, snatching away Pop’s heir apparent, because of that Spurs connection. So when Budenholzer speaks glowingly of the opportunities in front of him right now back in both San Antonio and here in Atlanta, he was speaking from a genuine place.

“It’s been a pretty amazing 48 hours, I’ll be very honest with you,” he said. “It’s exciting for my family, exciting for me.¬†The opportunity to come here with the Atlanta Hawks, when you couple that with coming to the NBA finals, I’m living a dream.”

We won’t know for a while whether or not this is truly the home run hire it appears to be. The Hawks don’t have a full roster right now. Al Horford, one of three players with a guaranteed contract for next season, was the only current player mentioned by name this morning.

But if Budenholzer’s pedigree means anything (and Ferry’s belief that he could turn out to be the next longtime assistant turned coaching star comes to fruition), he could be the man that helps the Hawks finally turn the corner from playoff regular to legitimate championship player in the East.

No assistant coach in the league has been better prepared for the rigors of what he’ll face with the Hawks.

“His path is similar to Frank Vogel‘s, Erik Spoelstra‘s and [Tom] Thibodeau’s,” Ferry said, “And I think those guys are some of the best coaches in the league right now. Bud is prepared [for this].”

The Hawks are ready for the change, too. With Larry Drew as coach the past three seasons and Mike Woodson for six seasons before the that (with Drew as his top assistant), the Hawks had settled into a certain groove. Ferry’s arrival last summer was the most significant shake-up in vision the franchise had seen in nearly a decade.

Budenholzer isn’t the big name many Hawks fans had hoped for. Stan Van Gundy took his name out of the running when he announced that he would not be coaching the Hawks or any other team next season. And without a roster to in place, chasing the higher-profile names on the market simply was not prudent for a franchise looking to build an identity that shadows the Spurs’ model.

“I’m definitely not a sexy hire,” Budenholzer said. “Thankfully, that wasn’t on Danny’s shopping list.”

Ferry had a very specific coaching ideal in mind. Budenholzer met all of the criteria and more.

“Part of what’s exciting about this for me is he has a great understanding of the league,” Ferry said. “He’s been part of San Antonio. He wasn’t just in San Antonio like some of us were, he’s been there for the duration. He’s seen how it evolved. He’s seen how it has grown. Mike, [Spurs GM] R.C. Buford and Pop were the ones who were there the whole time.”

The directional shift the Hawks organization is undergoing right now began last summer with Ferry’s arrival, not this latest move. Whatever growth there is will be marked by both men having input on the process.

“I think that whoever the coach was in our situation needed to have a clear vision of how he wanted to play and needed strong base of knowledge of the NBA, because there are a lot of decisions to make. We’ll make those collaboratively, and there are very important decisions in the coming months and years with how we are set up ¬†right now.”

27 Comments

  1. S man says:

    Atl is a big sports team. They are a major sports city. Exspecialy pro sports. AJ is 100% wrong. Look at the Braves. Won world series. Falcons, CLOSE to winning SuperBowl. Dream, into the WNBA FINALS. And of course, Hawks, who ha dom wilks. And working on getting new players and just hired a coach. Let me tell you who ATL coulg get. Trade J smooth for D wayde. And trade Petro, and devin H for Igudala. Wnd then get Ray Allen for 2 years.

  2. jaoromero says:

    wasn’t Danny Ferry the Cav’s GM when Lebron was in Cleveland? how well did that turn out? this man shouldn’t have a job anymore after that disaster he oversaw.

  3. V. Stew says:

    The Hawks need to sign Al Jefferson and Igoudala!!!

  4. Atlanta Sports Fan (Yes, We Exist) says:

    You’re wrong about Atlantans not caring about pro sports. We’re tired of many of our teams falling short due to terrible ownership and management. Arthur Blank and the Falcons are the exception, but even that is a very recent change in the long run. Amazing how people from other cities know so much about the Atlanta sports fanbase. The view from 4-championships-in-15-years-land must be so clear. We’re just trying to be patient while our teams get their acts together, here in 1-championship-in-50-years-land. Time will tell.

    • 34yr fan says:

      …Great post, but don’t worry ’bout aj……doesn’t know squat …….just hates

      • 34yr fan says:

        Personally I think that the ATL sports teams have been good to great…..and if I am not mistaken it was the Hawks with D Wilkins that went “cable” with TBS to really help the popularity of the sport as much as the magic/bird thing…..I know I watched alot of late night west coast games for the Hawks and they aren’t even the team I follow….and btw…. Yes, 1 in 50 …… and the fans still come……quite a testament to their loyalty……and that is one of the best things to see in sports PS: Before the 4 in15 it was 0 in 26…… and I got to ‘enjoy’ it all and still went to games and still watched and followed hoping that someday……maybe someday…..

      • 34yr fan says:

        …..0 for 22/23…..correction….the first few years of the franchise they were in the ABA

    • We care about sports but aren't fools either says:

      I fully agree with you ATL Sports Fans…everyone wants to think they know something about ATL sports. If it weren’t for Chipper Jones’ single in 95, there wouldn’t be ANY championships in either of the 4 major sports leagues. I’m sure A.J. is from some place that has at least 2 or more championships. When our sports teams play well (which has been rare over the 50 plus years of sports franchises in ATL) support and attendance for the teams go up. Most people that live in ATL aren’t from ATL and support teams from wherever they are originally from. Folks from LA, Boston, NY and Chicago should never talk about how ATL Fans don’t support teams, you all have multiple championships in multiple sports. How foolish is it to keep spending money on a loser?

  5. J says:

    its just great to see people like this rise up threw the ranks to after a long time become a head coach its just great

  6. AJ says:

    Yes. 2016. The lottery. As rotten as the team that got them into the position to draft Duncan in the first place. What do you fail to understand.

    • 34yr fan says:

      former league mvp Robinson was injured…..are you that dense?? and besides they weren’t ‘given’ the first pick and they could have picked someone else like many said they should do….remember Tim grew up wanting to be an Olympic swimmer not a basketball player from the Virgin Islands……….so many questioned if he was ‘experienced’ enough after graduating from WF…..those are the facts from back in ’97

  7. 34yr fan says:

    ……just one more time…….you are a bitter little JOKE aj……. Spurs have built a team……..don’t act like you know what Kawhi will do…. you don’t know jack, little aj

    • Jonesy37 says:

      Wow, 34yr fan. please contribute something to the conversation rather than insults at AJ. Personally I thought AJ had some good insights.

  8. W/E says:

    who is this guy anyway, i dont know him

    • 34yr fan says:

      …you don’t know anyone……….except who the media wants you to “know” about….Are you not a follower of the game??

  9. A.J. says:

    Smith is funny. The new guy was going to be the Spurs’ head coach when San Antonio will be in the lottery in a few years. That doesn’t make him qualified for the San Antonio job. It simply makes him a comfortable hire for San Antonio at a time when they’d stink. Then they’d eventually make him the scapegoat and fire him.

    Smith is under the impression (according to his Tweet) that the “San Antonio pedigree” is gold. Apparently Smith doesn’t comprehend that just because Mark Madsen watched Kobe Bryant, that Madsen was not going to become Kobe Bryant.

    Ferry destroyed Cleveland. Only fools would argue otherwise. Precisely how did his “pedigree” translate and equate to competence when he was left to his own devices? It didn’t matter. Mike Brown has a “San Antonio pedigree,” and he’s on his third head coaching job in eight years. There is a long line of guys with a New England/Bill Belichick “pedigree,” and every single one of them has been a disaster.

    I don’t know if he’s going to do a good job or a bad job as a first-time head coach. But guys like Smith and his ilk have got to stop with their inane “pedigree” comments.

    • A.J. says:

      Also, I hate Smith’s inane “Spurs’ model” reference. What does that even mean? Draft the next Tim Duncan, then draft a lot of good players low in the draft, then draft a bunch of foreigners and store them overseas until ready? Does Smith think that’s what Atlanta is now going to do?

      Cleveland was going to follow the “Spurs’ model,” and Ferry’s answer to that was signing ordinary players and stiffs like Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones and Daniel Gibson to outrageous multi-year contracts, putting them in salary cap hell from the beginning of Ferry’s Cleveland tenure until the end of Ferry’s Cleveland tenure. There was no “model,” unless you call forcing the MVP go to another team a “model.” Indeed, if anything, those five years could be called “The Ferry Model,” an example of everything an NBA GM should never do.

      Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop saying “pedigree” and “model.” It’s bunk.

    • gsw fan says:

      pop answered a question last week about whether he would retire when duncan retires and he stated that it was always just a joke because their contracts expire at the same times and his decision won’t be based on only duncan. he will definitely coach for a few more years to try to find a suitable replacement and the spurs won’t be in the lottery for a while…(parker is only 30-31, kawhi leonard is an up and coming star, and young role players that will only continue to develop their game) they won’t be necessarily be championship contenders, but they will be in the playoffs for a while and in that time will most likely get a few high drafts picks through trades or draft steals.

      • gsw fan says:

        however what you say is right because i dont think the atlanta organization has the same amount of patience as the spurs do to wait for draft picks to develop their game and store foreign players overseas get have more experience. their impatience is shown when they didnt re-sign larry drew which i think was a pretty good coach since they only had al horford and josh smith to carry them to the playoffs.

      • A.J. says:

        Couldn’t disagree more. Popovich will be 65 in January. In 2015, Parker will be 33 and trade bait, and Leonard will be a guy angling for a huge contract. They’ll be left with a roster full of role players and stiffs. A lottery team. Popovich isn’t going to coach that.

      • A.J. says:

        Agree with you about Atlanta, though. “Patience” and “Ferry” are contradictions in terms. “Competent” and “Ferry” are contradictions in terms. But the thing about Atlanta is that nobody there cares about pro basketball, or about professional sports in general. It’s a horrible professional sports town. So Ferry isn’t going to feel any heat, and he’ll spice up his press releases and press conferences with baloney about a nebulous “plan.” It’s good for his own job security, tell people you have some mystical unidentifed plan for the future instead of telling them that you just ain’t all that good at your job.

    • 34yr fan says:

      …..the lottery???? YOU are a JOKE aj……..go spew your hate somewhere else …peabrain!!