Mike Budenholzer remains the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks but the vast majority of chatter surrounding the 48-year-old centers on the potential of a scenario in which he lands a coaching position with a different organization. Budenholzer has been tied to the Suns (though he removed himself from consideration) and the Knicks in the form of interviews, with buzz that he could be in the mix for the Bucks opening when and if interim head coach Joe Prunty is not retained after the season.
On Tuesday evening, Marc Stein of the New York Times visited with Nate Duncan on the Dunc’d On NBA Podcast and, as part of the interview, the Budenholzer situation emerged as as a topic. While nothing was particularly explosive, Stein is a trusted source in the NBA world and the headliner centered on the fact that Budenholzer’s widely reported salary of two years and between $13 and 14 million may actually be on the low side.
“The reported number on Budenholzer in Atlanta is two years and $14 million-ish,” Stein said. “I’ve been told it’s even more than that.... He clearly wants to go somewhere else at this point. He’s interviewed with two teams. But what kind of separation agreement do you concoct when you’re making that kind of money?”
The notion that the situation features a number of moving parts is not new but is worth emphasizing that Stein also sees a scenario in which Budenholzer could return to Atlanta as a result.
“It’s a complicated negotiation,” Stein indicated. “And, because of that, is it inconceivable that he goes back to Atlanta? I don’t think it is. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that he would have to go back Because, let’s say Mike Budenholzer doesn’t get any of these jobs, are the Hawks just going to oust him now and pay him off at that number? No, they’re not.”
In this space, we’ve outlined that scenario on a number of occasions and hearing it from a national source (who also described the relationship between Budenholzer and Schlenk as “not fractured” with ability to co-exist) could emphasize the possibility. Even if Budenholzer’s compensation is at the previously reported number, it is unlikely that any NBA team (even the Knicks) would be rushing to pay him a similar figure, simply because Budenholzer’s current contract was engineered when he was overseeing a dual role in Atlanta.
With that said, Budenholzer would have to be offered another head coaching position and be willing to accept it despite the fact that, in the first two years of his new contract, a pay cut would likely be involved. Throw in the fact that the Hawks will be looking for compensation and, of course, the reality of only a few head coaching positions being available, and suddenly, the musical chairs could stop without Budenholzer landing elsewhere.
Arguments have unfolded in Atlanta since the initial news of Budenholzer interviewing for other positions and some of them center on his lack of commitment to the Hawks. Others even object to Atlanta’s front office allowing Budenholzer to interview elsewhere instead of simply parting ways with a head coach that does not appear long for his current job.
Still, the looming factor of a two-year pact worth at least $13 million cannot be overstated as an obstacle in this case and, once again, it is very difficult to believe that either the Hawks or Budenholzer would pull the trigger on a firing or resignation in the event that the 2014-2015 NBA Coach of the Year is unable to secure gainful employment elsewhere.