If you’re reading this article, you have a vested interest of some sort for the Milwaukee Bucks. So, if you haven’t heard that they fired Jason Kidd several days ago, what have you been doing? Living under a rock? Anyways, since then, the Bucks have named assistant coach Joe Prunty as the head coach. Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from his knee soreness to dominate in his first game back against the Nets, with a stat line of 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists. I feel as if the Kidd fire was a step in the right direction. However, the next step for the Bucks will be the most important move in a very long time. Giannis has 3 years remaining on his contract and the Bucks cannot mess this up, or it will set back the entire franchise a whole generation.
So, the next move is to hire the new coach. Who does General Manager Jon Horst have to look at to fill this new job opening? Prunty was named the interim coach for the rest of the season and that’s fine. What’s interesting is if Horst would be willing to stick with him even after the season is over. Prunty worked under Popovich in San Antonio in the early 200s and has been an assistant with Milwaukee since 2014. He’s been here since the beginning of this new era of Bucks basketball. He’s first handedly seen the ascension of Giannis, the draft selection of Jabari, the extension of Middleton and the trade for Bledsoe. This is also not the first time Prunty has been named an interim coach for the Bucks. Back in 2015, Prunty was the interim coach for 17 games when Kidd was out due to hip surgery. During that time, the Bucks played with a much faster tempo than when Kidd was at the helm. I think that with this team, that could be what they need. It seems simple: Spread the court, put Giannis in the pick and roll, and spread the floor with shooters. This was something that Prunty called upon many times in the Nets game, resulting in numerous buckets. If Prunty can lead the team to a solid record down the stretch of the season and maybe move them up in the standings to the 4 or 5 seed in East, Horst has to look at keeping Prunty in the head coach role.
If not Prunty, the Bucks are going to have to look outside the organization. David Fizdale would be an intriguing option. You may know Fizdale from his press conference after a playoff game versus the Spurs last year when he stated, “They ain’t gon’ rook us” and “Take that for DATA”. Fizdale last coached the Memphis Grizzles before getting fired earlier in the season after a power struggle with Marc Gasol. Fizdale’s teams are defensively minded and have been ranked among the top defenses. That’s something the Bucks have been lacking under Kidd. Even with all the athletes and length the Bucks have at their disposal, the defense has been extremely underwhelming, ranking near the bottom of the league the past couple years. It became obvious lately that Kidd’s hyper aggressive blitzing defensive schemes were just not working anymore. Fizdale and his defensive schemes, along with the athletes that Milwaukee has, should be able to turn that around relatively quickly. Fizdale also has the endorsement of several of the best players of this generation, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Fizdale was an assistant coach for the Heat from 2008-16, meaning he was there for the Big 3’s tenure in Miami. And hey, if he’s good enough for LeBron to endorse, he’d be good enough for me.
Two other intriguing options to me are both ESPN broadcasters: Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. Jackson’s only coaching experience was with the Golden State Warriors before their incredible run started. Jackson was replaced by Steve Kerr and they became one of the greatest teams ever. Is some of that on Jackson? Or is a lot of it due to the growth of Steph Curry’s, Klay Thompson’s, and Draymond Green’s games? I tend to lean towards the latter. Jackson took that team from a fringe playoff team and set them up for all of the success they are enjoying now. Jeff Van Gundy hasn’t coached in the NBA since 2007, but has been a broadcaster for ESPN basically since then, so he has still been around the game and would have some valuable experience for the young Bucks. Also, Van Gundy was named the coach for the US men’s national basketball team for the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup Tournament and the 2019 FIBA World Cup tournament. Does that mean he wants to get back into coaching again? If he were, there would be no place better to start than with Giannis and Jabari and the rest of the Bucks core.
To me, those are the top four options. If Prunty can turn the team around from this recent cold stretch, I think the job is his. If he can’t cut it, they got to look at David Fizdale, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy. You know who is my dark horse candidate however? Tony Bennett. He’s got Wisconsin ties, from going to the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and he was Malcolm Brogdon’s coach in college at Virginia. He’s got a good thing going at Virginia and I have no idea if he would consider coaching in the NBA, so this is purely speculation, but I’m going to keep my eye on him. All in all, the Bucks have to get this next move right. They HAVE to.
Author: Aaron VandeCastle