By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published May 05, 2023 at 4:56 PM Photography: Dan Garcia

On July 20, 2021, head coach Mike Budenholzer helped lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship – and the city's first title entirely – in 50 years. Less than two years after that historic feat, he's out of a job as the Bucks announced they parted ways with Budenholzer this week. 

The announcement comes after a season of mixed emotions for the Bucks, earning the league's best regular season record and many individual plaudits but then flaming out of the playoffs in the first round to the eight-seeded, play-in-surviving Miami Heat in just five games. Many sports pundits and talking heads pointed to the historic series loss and the manner in which Milwaukee fell short – collapsing late in the final two games, the latter at home at Fiserv Forum – as difficult for Budenholzer to come back from, and this week the Bucks leadership showed they apparently agree. 

"The decision to make this change was very difficult,” said Bucks general manager Jon Horst, in a release. "Bud helped lead our team for five incredible seasons, to the Bucks’ first title in 50 years, and into an era of sustained success. We are grateful for the culture of winning and leadership that Bud helped create in Milwaukee.

"This is an opportunity for us to refocus and reenergize our efforts as we continue building toward our next championship season."

Over the course of his five seasons with the team, Coach Bud led the Bucks to a regular season 271-120, making him the winningest coach by percentage in the franchise's history. The team made the playoffs as a Finals contender each of those seasons and, until this most recent postseason, won at least one series in each run, the team's greatest string of success since the '80s. He also won the NBA's Coach of the Year honor in 2019 and, of course, helped guide the Bucks and Brew City toward its first championship in 50 years in 2021. 

However, in the modern NBA, expectations are high – especially when you're a smaller market team with a star player and a championship window that can feel like it's closing right as it's been opened. And despite outstanding regular season performances, the Bucks under Budenholzer tended to underwhelm in the postseason, collapsing up two games against the Raptors in 2019, bombing out in the bubble against the Heat in 2020 and losing a 3-2 lead over Boston going home in 2022 – all before this most recent debacle. Even in 2021, when Milwaukee was on the brink of a second-round elimination against the Brooklyn Nets, there was talk of Coach Bud not making it to the following season with the Bucks. This latest and most shocking postseason exit – with unfortunately characteristic struggles to adjust midgame, clumsy half-court offense and confusing late-game strategy – seems to have marked the final straw for ownership, even with the heartbreaking news that he coached the final games against Miami while mourning the shocking loss of his brother.

But even though the Bucks fell short, Coach Budenholzer will always have the time they, for the first time in a half-century, went the whole distance and brought the Larry O'Brien Trophy and a victory parade to Milwaukee in 2021. And for that, Bucks fans will always be grateful and will always keep a place amongst Milwaukee sports all-timers for Coach Bud. His tenure with the team ends on a low note, but one imagines most will remember him with Milwaukee for the all-time high he helped deliver. 

As for what's next for the Bucks now, the team has yet to name Budenholzer's replacement nor have any reports named any interviewed coaches – though names like former Raptors coach Nick Nurse and current Bucks assistant Charles Lee have been rumored as potential targets. 

Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more Bucks updates during what could be a very dramatic offseason. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.