MILWAUKEE — Doc Rivers has not been officially announced as the Milwaukee Bucks‘ new head coach, but that is just a formality at this point. Bucks players addressed his arrival on Wednesday following their win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he’s agreed to a $40 million deal through 2026-27, according to Shams Charania.
In less than a year, the Bucks have fired long-time head coach Mike Budenholzer after a first-round exit in the playoffs last season, and his replacement Adrian Griffin despite a 30-13 start. As a result, they’ll now be paying three different head coaches, per Charania, at least for the time being. This is a major investment, especially for a small-market team. Budenholzer’s contract extension — signed in August 2021 — was set to run through the 2024-25 season. Griffin signed a multiyear deal last summer, though it’s unclear exactly when his deal was set to expire.
During a press conference on Wednesday to discuss Griffin’s departure, general mananger Jon Horst discussed the financial commitment from the ownership group.
“Those are hard decisions, those are hard discussions when they happen or have to happen,” Horst said. “The last part is where I’ll focus. It’s way more about this ownership group — Jimmy and Dee Haslem, Wes Edens, Jamie Dinan — Peter [Feigin]’s support, my ability to lead and be a part of this organization to try and push and do everything we can to resource this team.
“It’s a belief in those guys. The guys that are gonna go out and play the Cleveland Cavaliers. We believe in this team at a super high level and want to make sure we’re doing everything we can every step of the way. And that changes, it’s not the same every day. You have to have a pulse for that, you have to explore that, you have to learn from that, and then if needed you need to make bold decisions. They’ve been unafraid and have supported us in doing that along the way, so I’m thankful for that.”
It’s not just that the Bucks will be paying three coaches either. Rivers’ deal will make him one of the highest-earning coaches in the league, behind only Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and Monty Williams of the Detroit Pistons on an annual basis. (Gregg Popovich also makes more, but he has additional responsibilities as the San Antonio Spurs‘ president.)
The Bucks’ decision to part ways with Griffin came as a surprise, but despite their stellar record there were clear issues with the team, particularly on the defensive end. Horst and Co. believed a new coach could “maximize this group from a leadership perspective, from an experience perspective. We want to try to bring in a coach that can really take us to the next level where we think we can go with this group.”
On that front, the initial reactions from players who would speak about Rivers were positive.
“I’ve never had anything but the utmost respect for him,” Brook Lopez said. “Seeing him coach those Celtics teams when I first came in the league, to getting to know him a bit better through [Kevin Garnett] and [Paul Pierce]. Just building a relationship, just had the utmost respect for everything he’s done, for who he is on and off the court, the coach he’s capable of being. If [he does get hired], we’re excited to have him.”