That was good enough for first in the Central Division and second in the Eastern Conference just past the halfway point. But the Bucks felt they could do better, clearly.
“There has been a lot of expectation of our team. Things have been expected to look a certain way,” Lillard told reporters. “We’ve kind of had a bumpy road to our success, which is sometimes a part of the process, but like I said, I was surprised. It is part of the game. People get traded, people get waived, people get fired and it’s never something you want to see.”
Griffin will be replaced by Doc Rivers, who coached the Philadelphia 76ers last season and spent the first half of this season as an ESPN analyst.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo indicated he was surprised by the move.
For a coach like Griff, from Day 1, everything was about togetherness,” Antetokounmpo said. “He was always leading this group into the direction we set at the beginning of the year. Him not being here, at the end of the day, we’re humans. It hurts everybody.
“But we’ve got to keep on moving forward. We have a goal in our head, which is to be the best basketball team that we can be.”
Griffin compiled a 30-13 record in his first year as an NBA head coach. He spoke to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report/TNT about the Bucks’ decision.
“I appreciate the opportunity the Bucks gave me. You can’t control everything,” Griffin said. “I feel good about the job we did. I appreciate my coaching staff for all their hard work. I always wanted to be a head coach in this league. I couldn’t have asked for a better roster. I got to coach Giannis, Dame, (Khris Middleton), (Brook Lopez). Dream come true. Hopefully I get another shot at it, but overall, I’m just thankful.”
Griffin’s first sign of trouble in Milwaukee came before the season, when former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts resigned from his position as Griffin’s assistant. Lillard is known to be a Stotts fan from their time together in Portland.
Griffin, 49, began his NBA coaching career as a Bucks assistant in 2008. He then served as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors before being hired to replace Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee this past offseason.
Before becoming a coach, Griffin was a journeyman guard/forward in the NBA from 1999-2008, playing for six different teams in that span.