Bucks players express thanks to team’s outgoing owner

The fans at the BMO Harris Bradley Center who gave Senator Herb Kohl a standing ovation during the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2013-14 season finale weren’t the only ones expressing their appreciation for Kohl’s commitment to the franchise April 16.

Earlier that day, Kohl, the Bucks’ president and owner for nearly 30 years, announced that he had entered into a signed purchase agreement to transfer ownership of the Bucks to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, two highly regarded investors who are firmly committed to the success of the franchise and its importance to Milwaukee.

Kohl also pledged a $100-million gift for the development of a new arena for the team. Besides honoring Kohl’s requirement that the team be kept in Milwaukee, the new owners committed to contribute at least an additional $100 million toward the development of a new arena.

“My priority has always been and will continue to be keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee,” Kohl said. “This announcement reinforces that Milwaukee is and will continue to be the home of the Bucks. Wes and Marc agree, and they share my commitment to the long-term success of this franchise in Milwaukee.”

Kohl, following the press conference announcing the sale, met with the players prior to the season finale.

“Senator Kohl met with us today and told us it was time for him to give up ownership of the team,” forward John Henson said. “I think part of that was knowing that building a new arena was something he had to do.

“He told us, ‘I love you guys. We had some tough breaks, but next season will be better.’ He was a little emotional. You could tell he was kind of down a little bit, but at the same time, what he’s doing is helping the franchise, and as Bucks, that’s all we can ask for.

“He brought it in and everyone shook his hand. I thanked him for my opportunity, because without him, who knows where I’d be? I’m going to miss Senator Kohl, because he gave me the opportunity to be in this league and play. I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity.”

Henson was impressed with Kohl’s pledge of $100 million toward a new arena for the team.

“That’s an amazing gift, for someone to give as much as he did,” Henson said. “He really wants this team to be here. He told us he’ll still be around. Now the Bucks will be here for at least a little bit longer so everyone can put that to rest. We’ll be able to go to Chipotle over on East Ogden for a little longer. It’s gonna be fun.”

Forward Khris Middleton was grateful for Kohl’s pledge as well.

“I thanked him for that,” Middleton said. “That’s huge for us, getting a new arena, getting things going and winning the fans back.

“I think it’s going to be a good start, heading into the summer and next season. With new ownership, I think there will be change coming for the good.”

Guard Brandon Knight expressed his gratitude for the pledges made by Kohl and the new Bucks ownership team.

“That’s great,” Knight said. “When owners come in and put their best into a team, that really makes a difference. As players, we’re thankful to have that.

“We’re definitely thankful to Senator Kohl for all he has done for the Bucks, the tradition this franchise has built. But we’re excited about change as well. From what’s been reported so far, the new owners are very competitive and they want to come in and win right away. As players, that’s great to hear. You want to be in a situation where you’re going to win games. That’s exciting to hear.”

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, like his teammates, was both grateful to Kohl and excited about the franchise’s future.

“Senator Kohl ran things like a really nice guy,” Antetokounmpo said. “I hope the new owners do what’s best for the team. I think fresh blood could be good.”

“I haven’t really thought a lot about the sale. My job is just to think about the things I do on the court.”

Henson knows the team ownership shift comes with uncertainty over the changes that will follow, but he is upbeat about the franchise’s future and looking forward to working on his game this summer.

“I don’t know how much will change player personnel-wise at least for the immediate future,” Henson said. “We do know there’s going to be new blood running the Bucks franchise. Maybe new life will be one of the things we need to really take off.

“It’s exciting, being here at a time like this. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I remember the season when we only won 15 games. Now we’re winning 40, 50 games and fighting for playoff position.’ That ought to be a great feeling.”

Kohl is excited about the Bucks’ future, too.

“Today’s announcement signals the start of a new, exciting era for the Milwaukee Bucks,”Kohl said. “Now, with a long-term commitment from the new owners and major components of the funding in place for a new arena, we need to come together as a community to develop plans for a new sports and entertainment facility that will host more than 200 events a year, including Bucks games. I am confident we will do this.”