NBA Champion Head Coach Fired After Five Seasons With Team

An NBA champion head coach is looking for a new team. It was announced on Thursday that the Milwaukee Bucks fired Mike Budenholzer as their head coach after five seasons with the team. According to ESPN, Budenholzer has two years remaining on his contract worth around $16 million.

"The decision to make this change was very difficult," Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement. "Bud helped lead our team for five incredible seasons, to the Bucks' first title in 50 years, and into an era of sustained success. We are grateful for the culture of winning and leadership that Bud helped create in Milwaukee. This is an opportunity for us to refocus and re-energize our efforts as we continue building toward our next championship season."

Budenholzer, 53, led the Bucks to an NBA Championship during the 2020-21 season. But after losing in the conference semifinals in 2022 and the first round of the playoffs this year, the Bucks decided to make a change despite leading the Bucks to the NBA's best record of the 2022-23 season. ESPN says Budenholzer is the fourth coach in the last 50 years to lead his team to the best record in the NBA and not return the following season.

The Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in the playoffs 4-1, and Budenholzer's decision-making drew speculation, especially when his team had double-digit leads in Game 4 and Gamer 5. The firing of Budenholzer means three of the last four head coaches to win NBA titles have been let go. The only one to stand strong is Steve Kerr of the defending champion Golden State Warriors. 

"On the one hand, we all know what we're getting into when we get into this business," Kerr said Thursday when he was asked about Budenholzer's firing, per "So my first response is not necessarily shock, it's more disappointment because Bud is a fantastic coach… just won a championship and has been wildly successful in his coaching career. But this is the business we're in."  

Budenholzer began his NBA coaching career as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs from 1996-2013. He was then hired as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and led the team to one division title and one appearance in the conference finals in five seasons.