In the Center Club at Philips Arena, the Atlanta Hawks officially introduced Mike Budenholzer as head coach. Hawks General Manager and VP of Basketball Operations (not to be confused with the VP of Basketball, that's ‘Nique) Danny Ferry joined Budenholzer on stage and the two gave brief opening statements before fielding questions from the media.
"It is with great excitement and my pleasure to introduce Mike Budenholzer as the Atlanta Hawks next coach. I'm excited to work with Mike. Working with him, as I've said, we want to build a program here going forward we want to build something that can really last. Mike will be a great partner with me and really challenge me to do that and I'll do the same with him. Looking forward to some great experiences ahead and working with him."
Ferry went on to thank and compliment Larry Drew for the coaching job he did the past three years and said that he talked with Drew on Tuesday to tell him that and wish him the best of luck in the future.
Budenholzer's opening statement was mainly a long list of people he wanted to thank, starting with his family.
"I want to start by thanking first my family; Mary Beth, my kids Will, John, Hannah living back home. Their support, without it I wouldn't be here. I want to thank Danny, the ownership group: Bruce, Michael, Ed for putting me in a position to coach the Atlanta Hawks. I'm very, very appreciative of that. Obviously, I have some big thank yous to go back home, or, San Antonio I should say. Coach Pop has had a huge influence on me, 19 years with him, I could never put into words how appreciative and thankful I am for what he has given to me. Obviously R.C. Buford, the GM, has given me a lot. Peter Holt and the ownership in San Antonio, all the great players that have come through San Antonio, I owe them a lot."
Budenholzer then laid out the reasons why he chose the Hawks, and the type of program that he and Danny envision bringing to the Atlanta organization.
"I wanted to just make a short note on why I chose Atlanta and why I feel like this is the perfect place. When you look as a head coach you look at three things: Ownership, GM, and roster. Here in Atlanta, they have all three things going in an awesome direction. It made it the perfect place the perfect fit for me. As far as the program Danny and I want to build going forward, what that program will look like and feel like, is a group of competitors, I think both of us value competitiveness and a group that is committed to improving daily individually and as a team. We're going to bring a system here where we're organized defensively, organized offensively, we're going to execute, they'll know their roles, and we'll hold them accountable. That's the sort of program I look to build with Danny."
Budenholzer was asked what he liked about the roster, considering there are only three guaranteed and two non-guaranteed contracts that will be on the Hawks come July 1.
"Well I think the roster starts with Al Horford and a young core that is under contract that is really exciting that I feel strongly about. Then the flexibility that Danny has created going into this summer to build something special. As a coach, that's exciting, so that's why to me, that roster element, of making the decision was strong: the core, Al Horford, the flexibility, and what input I'll have. [Danny] made it clear to me that he wants my opinion and wants me to bring my experiences, some of which we shared together, and together we're going to build something special in Atlanta."
Danny Ferry jumped in to further emphasize the collaboration that will be going on between himself and Mike.
"Along those lines, I really believe the best way to build a team and work together is in a collaborative way. We'll listen to the video guy, we'll listen to the guy cleaning out the locker room if he's got a good idea, and we'll certainly listen to the head coach. Mike is part of what's exciting about this for me. I think he has a great understanding of the league and looking at things in the big picture. He wasn't just in San Antonio as some of us were, he's been there for the duration. He's seen how it's evolved and grown...He's going to have great opinions, and we're going to have great fights and arguments, and at the end of the day we'll walk out of the room with our group and with our decisions."
Budenholzer did not have any specific names of potential assistant coaches for his staff that he was willing to disclose, but he did say that "there are some names that I've been thinking about" and that he would make those decisions "in due time."
With Budenholzer remaining with the Spurs for the Finals, which may not conclude until less than a week before the draft, one of the big questions of the day was how much contact and input he would have in the draft process. I asked that exact question to Coach, who clearly has learned the art of vague answers from his time with Pop in San Antonio. (Related: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED)
"Danny and I are working and talking through a lot of what is going to happen over the next couple weeks, so in time we'll work through that and answer that question. For now, we're just focused on today and respectful of my responsibilities with San Antonio with the Finals. We're excited and I'm excited to get working on all of it; the draft, free agency, preparing for the season, and he and I will work and talk through all of those processes."
Budenholzer also went on to explain his coaching style, which, unsurprisingly, starts with building a defensive identity.
"My coaching style, well, it starts with being good defensively. That's got to be a priority. We have to build the habits and we have to make that part of our identity. If we want to be good, we have to be good defensively. Then I think there's a system offensively that has evolved and grown that I'm very comfortable with that I want to bring with me. It starts with pace and playing with a high pace, ball movement, people movement, playing unselfish, organized and attacking. We want to be good or great on both ends, and I think the defensive end will lead into our offense. There's a cycle that's part of basketball. I want to be great on both ends and start with a defensive identity and have that carry over to our offense."
What we learned in the 20 minutes that Coach Budenholzer talked with us is that he loves defense, Al Horford (as he should), and the process. We also learned that, at least to start, he is a much more media friendly coach than his mentor and friend Gregg Popovich and that he has a quick wit. After Ferry blocked a question about how many offers Budenholzer has had over his tenure as an assistant, Mike joked, "It might be his first block out. I don't remember him doing that in San Antonio." It is clear that Budenholzer and Ferry have a very close relationship, as both often referenced how there will be a lot of fights and arguments between the two, but that they will make decisions together. When asked about players on the roster, he first noted Horford, but also said he is a big fan of John Jenkins and Mike Scott. Budenholzer also noted that he really likes Jeff Teague, and that the decision to re-sign Teague will be one of the biggest decisions of the offseason. (Note: No one asked a question about Josh Smith because we all can see the writing on the wall.)
Budenholzer said, "I can't wait to start my relationship with all of our players." Well Mike, we the fans can't wait to start our relationship with you as our coach.