Before he became one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, Gregg Popovich was an assistant for the lowly Golden State Warriors. And before Mike Budenholzer became a leading candidate for the NBA Coach of the Year Award as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, he was just another guy in the film room for Golden State.
In a story about the evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Sports Illustrated writer Chris Ballard also dives into the events that led to Budenholzer becoming a head coach in the NBA, which started in earnest with his relationship with Popovich:
By then Popovich had become an assistant at Golden State. Feeling that he should help a Pomona kid, Pop offered an unpaid gig in the Warriors’ film room, “Just so long as I never see you or hear from you.” Not being an idiot, Mike said yes. When Pop got the Spurs’ GM job in 1994, he called Bud, who headed to Texas, where he spent long hours in a dark room, hand-splicing VHS tape and relying on coupons for his diet of Subway sandwiches. He couldn’t have been happier.
Then: the Spurs years. In 1996, Pop, having taken over as coach, made Bud, at 26, the youngest assistant in the league. Marriage, four kids. Duncan, Parker and Ginóbili. Four rings. Bud telling friends no job could be better—best mentor in the league, no pressure. Theoretically, he was next in line. Then again, who knew if Pop would ever retire? In the summer of 2011, an opportunity, the kind that comes along once every decade: a new Warriors owner wanted to unlock the talents of 23-year-old Steph Curry and rookie Klay Thompson. Budenholzer got the call. Only he pushed his vision too hard. “I thought he was really smart, but it wasn’t going to fit,” Joe Lacob says. Bud deems that too kind.
With four games left in the season, the Bucks (58-20) have a good shot at winning 60-plus games and finishing the regular season with the best record in the NBA.