The Milwaukee Bucks have officially agreed to a deal with Mike Budenholzer to become the team’s next coach.
The 2015 NBA Coach of the Year will replace Joe Prunty, the former assistant who went 21-16 in the regular season after replacing the fired Jason Kidd in late January.
The team announced the move on Thursday afternoon. The deal was first reported by ESPN on Wednesday.
The Bucks lost to Boston in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
Budenholzer went 213-197 in five seasons with the Hawks, leading them to a franchise-record 60 wins and the Eastern Conference finals in 2015. He and the Hawks mutually agreed to part ways last month with two years remaining on his contract, allowing Budenholzer to pursue other opportunities.
The one with the Bucks may have been the best available, thanks to All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and a new arena next season.
“There’s a massive amount of excitement around this team, because of the arena right there, because of this facility, because or our team,” general manager Jon Horst said recently from the Bucks’ training facility located across the street from the new arena.
“I think a coaching hire just adds to the momentum that we have as an organization, particularly if it’s the right person and it helps us win the way that we expect to win.”
The Bucks took a small step forward this season after winning 44 games, two better than last year, when they lost to Toronto in six games in the first round.
Before choosing Budenholzer, the Bucks also considered Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, who would have been the first woman to coach an NBA team, and interviewed former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, former Hornets coach Steve Clifford, and current Spurs vice president and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams.
“Xs and Os matter, you want someone who has a high basketball IQ, a high human IQ, a high character person, someone who’s a great communicator,” Horst said about some of the qualities he was seeking in the next coach.
Budenholzer was a longtime assistant to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio before taking the Atlanta job. The Hawks have been on a downward spiral since his second season and fell to 24-58 this season, worst in the Eastern Conference. They hired former 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce and have the No. 3 pick in next month’s draft.