Where Does Mike Budenholzer Rank Among Bucks Coaches All-Time?

Mike Budenholzer is going into his fourth season as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

In only three seasons as coach of the Bucks, he has produced three of the best seasons in the history of the team and also delivered the franchise its first championship in 50 years in the 2020-2021 season. Coach Bud is one of only two coaches in Bucks history to ever achieve the feat of winning a championship. With that said, where does Mike Budenholzer rank among Bucks coaches all-time?

ORLANDO, FL – FEBRUARY 8: Head Coach Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks talk with the media after the game against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center on February 8, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. The Bucks defeated the Magic 112 to 95.

5. Jason Kidd

This may be controversial and hopefully you don’t stop reading here.

Hear me out on this one. I don’t believe in Jason Kidd’s coaching methods just like you don’t. However, Jason Kidd is at the very least partially responsible for the development of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kidd always believed in the young Antetokounmpo and pushed him just as hard, if not harder, than anybody on the Bucks roster at the time. Kidd would sometimes use the Greek prodigy in a point guard role, which may be somewhat responsible for his developments in aspects of his offensive game, particularly attacking downhill and passing.

4. Del Harris

Del Harris is probably not a name that you expected to find on this list.

Harris is a forgotten about coach in Milwaukee Bucks history, most likely because people associate the era that he coached in with Don Nelson. It should be noted that Harris made the playoffs in each of the four seasons that he coached with the Bucks prior to his resignation in 1991-1992. The one knock on Harris is that his teams only escaped the first round of the playoffs one time in his tenure. Overall though, making the playoffs is an accomplishment in its own right and should not be overlooked.

3. Mike Budenholzer

It may be shocking to see Mike Budenholzer outside of the top two of the list.

My defense for having Coach Bud at #3 is that he has only been the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks for three seasons. Bud will only continue to climb if he can sustain his success for a longer period of time. All signs are looking up for that possibility, with Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday all locked up with contract extensions for the next few seasons. Most Bucks fans are probably happy that the team didn’t part ways with Coach Bud after last season’s results.

2. Don Nelson

Milwaukee Bucks: Getting to know the 1980-81 team
BOSTON- 1981: Head coach Don Nelson of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during a game against the Boston Celtics played in 1981 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1981 NBAE (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

Don Nelson was a consistent winner in Milwaukee.

Nelson was ahead of his time, developing the concept of the point forward. A concept that is commonly found in today’s NBA was invented by Nelson. His offensive system was referred to as “Nellie Ball”. His offense revolved around tremendous spacing and took advantage of mismatches with their opponents.

Nelson’s offensive innovations helped him guide his team to playoff appearances in his final eight seasons in Milwaukee. Unfortunately for Nelson, despite all of his success, he was never able to successfully guide the Bucks to a championship.


1. Larry Costello

Larry Costello was the first coach in the history of the Bucks organization, which played a role in his placement on this list.

Costello took over as head coach in 1968 when the Bucks became an expansion team. Costello was given a gift right away. The Bucks selected Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the NBA legend would have an immediate impact on the trajectory of the franchise. In only his second season in the NBA and Costello’s third season, Milwaukee won the first championship in the team’s history. Costello and Abdul-Jabbar brought the team to two NBA Finals appearances, but only won the first championship appearance that they had together.

Final Thoughts

Coach Budenholzer has had tremendous success since he arrived in Milwaukee. If he can continue at his current pace, he will only climb the rankings and pass Nelson and Costello. As fans of the Bucks, we are extremely lucky to have a coach like Budenholzer as ours. He took Milwaukee from a mediocre fringe playoff team and turned them into a championship contender.

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