With the very real possibility that this could be premature to the point of being dead wrong by the time we all get back to the office, Defector would like to be the first to send our sincerest congratulations to Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer on not getting canned this summer.
The Bucks are one win—well, one injury resolution, since that’s the way we’re keeping score this year—from reaching their first NBA Finals since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bill Zopf, and Marvin Winkler roamed the earth. That’s 50 full years plus two months ago (the Finals back then ended in April, that’s how long ago this happened). And Coach Bud, as he is unconvincingly called, has been to blame for every bit of this seemingly successful season. He doesn’t adjust quickly enough, he’s only a regular season coach, he hasn’t made Giannis Antetokounmpo the best player in the universe yet, he looks like someone dressing as a vagrant for a costume party, and most tellingly, he has no apparent genetic links to Air Bud. He is in many ways a perfect coach for soccer, in that his shelf life is meant to be short whether successful or not.
But in the moment when the wheels should have snapped off his little trolley of delight, when Antetokounmpo turned his knee into a pipe cleaner and missed Game 5, the Bucks rose up and smote the Atlanta Hawks, 123-112. In fairness, the Hawks were without Trae Young, who is in his way more important to the Hawks than Antetokounmpo is to Milwaukee, so there’s always that. But if Budenholzer gets the children to repeat Thursday’s feat, and he has two shots at it, the Bucks will be in the Finals, and it is hard to imagine Budenholzer getting blamed, let alone fired, for an alleged underachievement that is actually greater than any achievement the Bucks have had since Richard Nixon was undisgraced.
It’s not impossible for this to happen, mind you. Owners are mostly spoiled whackjobs and general managers are more often than not craven sycophants; we don’t know if they all are, but then again we haven’t met them all. Marc Lasry could snap his cables, and tell Jon Horst to hand Budenholzer a cardboard box and tell him to hit the trail, but the decision wouldn’t be particularly defensible except as a matter of “He who pays, says.”
But we’re thinking Budenholzer is safe for at least the next 10 months because (a) Antetokounmpo doesn’t look particularly usable right now, and losing one’s best player only works when the other team loses its best player too, (b) these playoffs have been a nightmare for trainers and doctors across the league, (c) the Bucks have already gone further than their seeding would indicate they should, and not to put too fine a point on it, (d) the most likely way a coach gets fired these days is through player objection, and there is no indication that Antetokounmpo has any issues with Budenholzer.
So well done to you, Bud. You beat the bloodthirsty pundits, unless for some unjustifiable reason you haven’t, in which case you probably will have gotten screwed, which is a notable achievement of its own. But it’s not like the gasbags didn’t warn you that could happen every time the need for a new topic on a slow news day reared its ugly mug. Point is, on this day you beat the scythe for one more year.