Reports: Bucks to hire Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin as new head coach

Toronto Raptors Assistant Coach Adrian Griffin takes charge of the team against Detroit Pistons in NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, February 12, 2023, after Head Coach Nick Nurse missed the games due to personal reasons. (Chris Young/CP)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks are finalizing a deal to make Adrian Griffin their head coach after he spent the last five seasons as a Toronto Raptors assistant, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Saturday because the deal was still being completed.

Griffin would replace Mike Budenholzer, who was fired earlier this month after the top-seeded Bucks’ stunning loss to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Griffin had been an assistant on a Toronto staff headed by Nick Nurse, who was fired last month after the end of the Raptors’ season. Griffin was an assistant on the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship team that beat the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.

ESPN and The Athletic first reported the Bucks’ selection of Griffin.

His hiring would enable Griffin to return to the place where he started his coaching career.

The 48-year-old was a Bucks assistant from 2008-10 when Scott Skiles was Milwaukee’s head coach. Griffin began that first Milwaukee coaching stint after a nine-year NBA playing career that included stops with the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics.

He also was an assistant at Chicago, Orlando and Oklahoma City before joining Toronto’s staff.

Griffin’s task would be to make sure the Bucks avoid the early playoff exits that ended their last two seasons as they deal with a potentially narrowing championship window.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished third in this year’s MVP balloting, has two years plus a 2025-26 player option remaining in the supermax deal he signed in December 2020. Antetokoumpo is eligible to sign an extension in September.

Brook Lopez, the runner-up to Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. in the NBA defensive player of the year voting, is a free agent. Three-time All-Star Khris Middleton also could become a free agent as well if he doesn’t pick up his $40.4 million player option for the upcoming season.

Antetokounmpo is 28 years old, but most of the Bucks’ other key players are well into their 30s. Lopez is 35, All-Star guard Jrue Holiday turns 33 on June 12 and Middleton turns 32 on Aug. 12.

Budenholzer led the Bucks to a league-best 271-120 regular-season record in his five seasons and coached the 2020-21 Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971. But with the notable exception of that championship run, the Bucks couldn’t match their regular-season success in the postseason.

The Bucks had a league-best 58-24 regular-season record this year but fell 4-1 to the Miami Heat in the opening round of the playoffs. They were just the sixth No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in the opening round, and the only No. 1 seed that failed to win more than one playoff game.

Budenholzer also led Milwaukee to the league’s best regular-season record in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The Bucks blew a 2-0 lead and lost 4-2 in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals to a Toronto team that included Griffin on the coaching staff. The Bucks fell 4-1 to Miami in the second round in 2020.

The 2020-21 Milwaukee team had the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and lost a seven-game, second-round series to the Boston Celtics.

Milwaukee played that entire series against Boston without Middleton, who had a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. In the series against Miami this year, Antetokounmpo left Game 1 early and missed all of Games 2 and 3 with a bruised lower back.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.