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Report: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors intensify pursuit of Mike Budenholzer

Former Hawks coach high on wish list for both teams

The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors took decidedly different paths in 2017-18, yet both sit today with a coaching job vacancy. With both teams looking to take the next step in their respective development, they are both chasing hard after a former Coach of the Year winner.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Bucks and Raptors have amped up their wooing process of Mike Budenholzer, who was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2015. Budenholzer coached the Atlanta Hawks from 2013-18, going 213-197 and led the Hawks to their first-ever 60-win season in ’14-15. He and Atlanta parted ways shortly after the 2017-18 season ended..

Here’s more from Wojnarowski on the Bucks and Raptors’ pursuit of Budenholzer:

Mike Budenholzer has emerged as the centerpiece of the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors’ coaching searches, and the two teams are preparing to spend the coming days competing for him, league sources told ESPN.

The Raptors opened talks with Budenholzer over the weekend, and those conversations were continuing Monday, league sources said. The Bucks considered Budenholzer their front-runner after the opening round of interviews and are working to re-engage him in talks that will include ownership, league sources said.

Budenholzer, the 2015-16 NBA Coach of the Year, has shown significant interest in examining both job opportunities.

The Raptors fired highly successful coach Dwane Casey last week after the team was swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He posted a 320-238 (.573) record in his seven years as coach of the Raptors, winning a team-record 59 games this season and four Atlantic Division titles overall. However, he and the Raptors could never reach The Finals and had their season once gain ended in the playoffs by the Cavs.

Joe Prunty held the Bucks’ coaching job — albeit on an interim basis — for most of last season after taking over once coach Jason Kidd was fired on Jan. 22. Prunty went 21-16 and led the Bucks to the playoffs, where they fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the first round. Per reports, the Bucks were set to interview San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon and former Cavs coach David Blatt for their vacancy as well.

Wojnarowski reports that the Bucks and Raptors are using very different selling points to try and land Budenholzer:

Milwaukee is selling a transcendent young star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a solid supporting cast and the opening of a new downtown arena next season.

For Budenholzer, the Bucks and Raptors represent the opportunity to return to Eastern Conference contention. Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks parted ways in April, after the two sides could no longer see a path together with the franchise’s rebuilding plans and new management structure.

Before the split, the Hawks gave Budenholzer permission to speak with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks for their coaching openings. He pulled out of contention for the Suns job after several conversations with ownership and management.