Atlanta Hawks Introduce New Head Basketball Coach Mike Budenholzer
By Titus Falodun Contributing Writer | 5/29/2013, 2:28 p.m.
ATLANTA—Newly introduced Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer is now in the eye of a whirlwind of joy and challenge.
“It’s been a pretty amazing 48 hours,” Budenholzer said at the press conference at Philips Arena today. “The opportunity to come here and be the head coach for the Atlanta Hawks is something that I’ve dreamed about and wanted for a long time. And when you couple that with returning to the NBA Finals—I’m living a dream.”
Currently serving as a tenured assistant (19 years overall) under Head Coach Gregg Popovich at San Antonio, Budenholzer and the Spurs are making it to their fourth NBA Finals appearance in a decade, with a chance to win their fifth title (1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007).
And with the week layoff until the Spurs’ next game, Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry swooped in and got a seasoned but young and accomplished coach in the 43-year-old Budenholzer, who replaces Larry Drew. Drew was effectively dismissed by Ferry, after just three seasons.
“As a coach, you’re looking for three things: ownership, GM, and roster,” Budenholzer said about choosing the Hawks over other teams. “And here in Atlanta, they have all three things going in a positive direction. So, it made it the perfect fit, perfect place for me.”
Budenholzer will certainly look to add staff members and players that exhibit the competitive edge he so closely observed in Coach Popovich and the Spurs’ dynamic core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
“The most important thing that you can take from Coach Popovich, on handling players, is that he wants competitors,” Budenholzer said. “And he’s, in my mind, the ultimate competitor.”
Budenholzer also mentioned his anticipation to build around forward Al Horford and the young surrounding Hawks’ core.
Furthermore, the Hawks have just three players under contract for next season, which means more than $40 million is available in salary-cap space. And with potential free agents, such as Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, as well as their own free agents Josh Smith and Jeff Teague on the market, this can prove to be the summer that changes the Hawks’ postseason fortunes for the better.
“The flexibility that Danny [Ferry] has created to build something special this summer [is] exciting,” he said. “I’ve been in San Antonio for a long time. It was going to take something like this team to make me feel comfortable and great about taking this step. And Atlanta has that.”
GM Ferry expects some clashes with his longtime friend but all in the name of getting the Hawks to the standard of excellence that San Antonio has long enjoyed.
“We will be unified after those debates and arguments,” Ferry said. “I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”