While the San Antonio Spurs were busy basking in the glow of their Western Conference championship, it seems Gregg Popovich's right-hand man was out finding himself a new gig.
The Hawks confirmed the news on Twitter:
Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks
OFFICIAL: We have named Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer our next head coach. Read the full release here: http://t.co/zLMyzd8eqP5/28/2013, 8:26:10 PM
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier on Tuesday that the two sides were close on a deal.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry reportedly made a push for Budenholzer after the Spurs clinched their NBA Finals berth with a sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies. Budenholzer will stay with San Antonio through the NBA Finals.
The move marks the end of one of the more successful assistant-head coach pairings in recent NBA history. Budenholzer has been a vital member of Popovich’s staff for each of the past 16 seasons, including the past five as the lead member of his staff.
The duo has won four NBA championships and made the playoffs in every season since 1997-98.
One of the most respected assistants in NBA circles, Budenholzer was a natural fit for Ferry. The two have a mutual respect for one another dating back to Ferry’s time with the Spurs, and the team came away impressed with his interview, per Wojnarowski.
Atlanta went 44-38 during the 2012-13 regular season before losing to the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks had previously targeted former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy to take over for incumbent Larry Drew, whose services were not retained.
The slate Budenholzer inherits from Drew is almost completely blank.
Atlanta has just $22.5 million in salary commitments for the 2013-14 season, assuming the team renounces rights to all of its free agents. Cap holds on stars like Josh Smith could lessen that number should the Hawks choose to negotiate with the mercurial star.
Since the organization has quite a bit of wiggle room, Atlanta is expected to be a major player in free agency this summer.
The initial push for Van Gundy came with the impetus of acquiring Dwight Howard, who is from Atlanta and hits the open market this summer. With Al Horford on the roster, the Nos. 17 and 18 picks in June’s draft and enough cap space to acquire two max free agents this summer, the Hawks represented one of the league’s most intriguing vacancies.
With Budenholzer now in place, the Hawks have landed one of the most respected names in coaching. It remains to be seen whether they’ll add even more respected names to the roster come July.
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