How Milwaukee's stunning playoff loss could benefit the Spurs

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach Collins
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach Collins / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The Milwaukee Bucks' surprising elimination in the first round of the NBA Playoffs might seem far removed from the San Antonio Spurs. After all, the Spurs haven't made the playoffs for a franchise-record four straight seasons, but the Bucks' misfortune could benefit San Antonio.

Watching a number one seed lose in the first round retroactively takes some of the sting out of the 2011 Spurs' failure. However, the greater revelation following the Bucks' collapse is that their head coach, Mike Budenholzer, may be fired for falling short of expectations.

Could Budenholzer be the Spurs' next coach?

Budenholzer was a long-time Spurs assistant coach, and since leaving San Antonio in 2013 to join the Atlanta Hawks, he has been highly successful. He won Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2019 and an NBA championship in 2021. Despite winning a title and more than 60% of his regular-season games, he has faced criticism for his lack of success in the playoffs.

That lack of postseason success could lead to his exit in Milwaukee and open the door for him and the Spurs to reunite. He spent 19 years with the organization, and if he rejoins the Spurs, he may be the perfect candidate to replace head coach Gregg Popovich when he calls it quits.

He is more than 20 years younger than Popovich, and even if Pop plans on coaching for another couple of seasons, Budenholzer could return as an assistant. That might help make an eventual transition from Popovich to Budenholzer smoother.

Even as an assistant, he could be an asset to the Spurs, who often have their coaching staff poached by other teams. Spurs assistant Mitch Johnson is reportedly a candidate to replace Budenholzer in Milwaukee if they let him go, as would former Spurs coach Becky Hammon.

The more experience on a coaching staff, the better, and he would provide plenty of it. Of course, he could pursue other head coaching jobs or take a year or two off. Then again, the Spurs already have a solid young core and picks galore, plus they are in a position to potentially land the number one pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Returning to the Spurs as an assistant would allow him to help shape a promising roster he could eventually coach. 

If Budenholzer parted ways with Milwaukee, returning to the Spurs might be one of his best options. After a decade of head coaching and nearly two decades of prior experience with the Silver and Black, he would be a strong candidate to replace Popovich when he inevitably retires.

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