Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer would be the top candidate for the Pacers’ coaching vacancy should he become available after the playoffs, per J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star.
The Pacers are expected to cast a wide net in their search to replace Nate Bjorkgren, who was fired after just one season and a supposed disconnect with the players and coaching staff.Other reported candidates include Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts and Clippers assistant Kenny Atkinson.
Still, per Michael, Budenholzer would “rocket to the top of the list” should he and the Bucks part ways. The Bucks currently trail their first-round series vs. the Nets by a 2-0 count.
Budenholzer, 51, is in his third season with the Bucks, leading them to the NBA’s best regular-season record in each of the first two. But they have been unable to reach the Finals and could consider a change to show star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo they are serious about contending for a title.
Budenholzer has already worked with Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard when the two were employed by the Spurs.
Whether Budenholzer is available or not, word is Pritchard is looking for an established coach after taking a chance on a first-timer such as Bjorkgren, who had previously only been an assistant in the NBA.
“It’s my fault,” Pritchard said. “It’s our organization’s fault. We’ve got to do better.”
Pritchard added that hiring the Pacers “wanted to take a risk” when they decided to hire Bjorkgren last offseason.
“We wanted to try something new,” Pritchard said. “I’m thankful for Nate; he worked his tail off. There were some things he did well. And there were some things I think he wished he had done differently.”
The Pacers finished 34-38 and missed the playoffs. Bjorkgren signed a three-year contract before the season, with one guaranteed year remaining.