It looks as though Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer wants to move from the Peach State to the Big Apple. Sources have told Marc Berman of the New York Post that the New York Knicks coaching vacancy is his “top choice.”
“If they offered him the job, he’d say yes,” the source said. “He wants to live in New York.”
Budenholzer has experienced a freefall in fortunes with the Hawks over the past five years as the team’s head coach, a depression in play that can’t be pinned on him.
The 2015 NBA Coach of the Year went from leading the Hawks to a 60-win season three years ago, a franchise record, to just 24 this year after management allowed Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk in free agency while trading away Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver.
Understandably, most established NBA head coaches would want to remain the clipboard holder of a tanking team and the Hawks have allowed him to search for another job.
New York added Budenholzer to its crowded list of prospective coaches, interviewing the 48-year-old on Sunday. Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Mike Woodson, Jerry Stackhouse and Kenny Smith have also interviewed for the position. Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt and San Antonio Spurs assistant James Borrego will also meet with the Knicks.
While Woodson, who has already coached the Knicks from 2011-2014, might be the most qualified candidate of the bunch, Budenholzer might have the most impressive pedigree.
He spent 17 years as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs, winning four championships during his time in Texas before getting the head coaching job in Atlanta.
Spending that much time working under one of the greatest coaches in NBA history has made Budenholzer one of the better defensive-minded coaches in the league. His Hawks ranked in the top six in fewest points allowed per game from 2015-2017.
He also helped develop Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. into more of a serviceable contributor in the NBA. Hardaway went from a player averaging 9.7 points per game at a 41-percent clip from the field over his first three years in the NBA (two with the Knicks, one with the Hawks), to one that put up 14.5 points per game while shooting 45.5-percent from the field.
His improvement coaxed the Knicks into signing him to a four-year, $71 million deal prior to the 2017-18 season where he continued to improve on his career numbers, putting up 17.5 points per game in an expanded role in his return to New York.