ATLANTA – Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk on Thursday described coach Mike Budenholzer’s exit as “harmonious” and “as mutual as parting can be.”
Schlenk also said the decision, finalized and announced late Wednesday, came after many discussions with Budenholzer and was not based on just one factor.
“It’s not one thing,” Schlenk said. “It was just the course of several conversations we just felt like this was best for him and his career and the right time for the Hawks for where we are.”
Added Schlenk: “It was kind of we felt the right time for both of us to go separate directions. It wasn’t negative on either side. It was just time for both of us to move forward.”
Budenholzer helped to pave his path out of Atlanta by expressing interest in coaching other teams.
Schlenk said he still believed at the end of the season, when the Hawks finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, that Budenholzer would remain the team’s coach. Then Budenholzer received permission to interview with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks .
Budenholzer withdrew his name from consideration with the Suns and remains a candidate with the Knicks.
With Budenholzer seeking employment from at least two other teams, it was increasingly difficult for the Hawks to serve as the coach’s safety net.
The Hawks, with the blessing of majority owner Tony Ressler, finally decided it was best to find a new coach. The decision came even though ending the relationship with Budenholzer, who had two years remaining on his contract, ended the team’s chance to receive compensation if he is hired by another team.
“Obviously Tony is involved in all the decisions,” Schlenk said. “We made the decision that was best for us instead of waiting and seeing what might happen. But certainly we had his blessing.”
Schlenk said he will look for a new coach who can work with a young, rebuilding team.
“One of the things that’s most important is having a coach who’s going to connect with our young players, continue to develop our young players, so that’s going to be a big part of it,” he said.
Budenholzer was 213-192 in the regular season and 17-22 in the playoffs in five seasons with Atlanta. The Hawks were an Eastern Conference-worst 24-58 this season, ending the team’s streak of 10 consecutive playoff appearances.
The high point in Budenholzer’s five years with the Hawks came in the 2014-15 season, when the Hawks set a franchise record with 60 wins. He was named NBA coach of the year after the Hawks’ first appearance in the Eastern Conference finals.
Budenholzer was given more authority with the title of president of basketball operations, but he gave up that position when Schlenk was hired as general manager in 2017. Schlenk said the two maintained a positive relationship.
Schlenk said he already had a list of potential candidates to replace Budenholzer and will consider candidates with experience as a head coach or just as an assistant.
Schlenk said he hopes to have the new coach hired before the NBA draft on June 21, and “ideally” before the team conducts workouts with draft prospects.
The Hawks have a chance to obtain the No. 1 overall pick when the NBA draft lottery is held on May 15 in Chicago. Barring a trade, Atlanta will have three first-round picks. Schlenk said he would like for the new coach to have input on those draft decisions.
Schlenk said Budenholzer’s exit won’t change the team’s rebuilding effort.
“We’re going to continue to develop our young players,” he said. “We’re going to continue to develop through the draft. We’re going to continue to look to gather assets and maintain our financial flexibility. This doesn’t change our plan at all.”
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