By Shams Sarania, Eric Nehm, and Eric Koreen
The Milwaukee Bucks have named Toronto Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin as their next head coach, league sources said. Athletic on Saturday.
The decision to hire Griffin comes at the end of a three-week search process for a new head coach, when general manager Jon Hurst opted to fire head coach Mike Budenholzer on May 4.
“As we dive into the process and it develops, obviously it will become more narrow, but at this point, everything should be on the table,” Horst said on May 5. “We’re in the gathering stage. Gathering and who’s interested and what the largest candidate pool will be, and then we’ll work from there.
The search narrowed earlier this week when the Bucs asked three candidates — Kenny Atkinson, Adrian Griffin and Nick Nurse — to travel to Milwaukee to meet with the team’s key decision makers.
As all three candidates interviewed for the position with Horst, another factor became incredibly significant: The finalists were two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in his River Hills, Wis. An opportunity to meet at home on Tuesday was also offered. He said that the matter was explained.
After that, each candidate met with the Bucks ownership group on Wednesday. On Thursday night, Horst hosted a dinner to discuss the team’s decision regarding the head coaching opening. Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton have both been invited to attend, according to a league source.
Videogamer: A week in the life of Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin
On Saturday, league sources said Nurse Bucs dropped out of the search as the team decided between Griffin and Atkinson and ultimately chose Griffin. Antetokounmpo approved Griffin’s hiring, the sources added.
Griffin will be the 17th head coach in Bucks franchise history, following Budenholzer, who had a career-best .693 winning percentage over the past five seasons in Milwaukee.
Griffin, 48, has never served as an NBA head coach before and began his coaching career in Milwaukee in 2008 as an assistant to Scott Skiles. Griffin was part of a three-team trade that included Oklahoma City. Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and Bucks. But Griffin never played again, and Skiles added him to his staff.
Over the past 15 seasons, Griffin has served as an assistant coach for five different teams (Bucs, Bulls, Magic, Thunder and Raptors). For the past five seasons, Griffin served as an assistant coach for the Raptors.
Griffin’s top priorities as a coach
As Griffin settles into his new position with the Bucs, he will have to familiarize himself with the team’s personnel and figure out how to develop his own offensive and defensive schemes. As a first-time head coach, it’s the first time he’s been able to develop his own ideas and opinions on both ends of the floor.
Over the past five seasons, the Bucks offense has been built around Antetokounmpo. With Jrue Holiday and Middleton providing additional playmaking, the Bucks built their offense around the three players’ isolated playmaking abilities and spaced the floor with as much 3-point shooting as possible. While the Bucs have been elite offensively this time around, their half-court offense has struggled at times in the postseason. That will be a tough task ahead of Griffin.
Defensively, the Bucks have three All-Defensive players in Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Brook Lopez, so there’s plenty of talent to go around, but Griffin will have to figure out how to use that talent. Griffin has been an assistant in Toronto for the past five seasons, where they’ve gone out of their way to pressure the ball and force turnovers, a Bucs defensive effort that hasn’t been the same over the past five seasons.
It will be interesting to see how Griffin tries to integrate the Bucs’ defensive strengths with his own defensive convictions. – Take it
What does he bring to the Bucks?
After training with Tom Thibodeau, Skiles and Billy Donovan, Griffin arrived in Toronto with Nurse in 2018. He did most of his work on the defensive side, but Nurse kept his assistants in rotating responsibilities. He also has a background in player development, having worked closely with Jimmy Butler in Chicago. — Grow up
Where does this leave Toronto’s coaching search?
Griffin was a leading candidate after the nursing layoff in Toronto. The Raptors are in no rush to hire a coach, but they have talked to Kings assistant Jordy Fernandez and several other candidates, from Steve Nash to JJ Redick. The Raptors want to hire a coach before the NBA draft, which gives them nearly four weeks. — Grow up
(Photo by Adrian Griffin (left): Van Ridley / NBAE via Getty Images)