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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Mike Budenholzer 'living a dream'

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ATLANTA -- New Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is "living a dream" as he makes plans to remain with the San Antonio Spurs through the NBA Finals before turning his full focus to his first NBA head-coaching job.

Budenholzer, the longtime San Antonio assistant, was named the Hawks' coach on Tuesday, one day after the Spurs completed a four-game sweep of Memphis in the Western Conference finals.

Mike Budenholzer
Mike Budenholzer said he'll bring lessons learned under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, including a strong defensive philosophy, to the Hawks.

"It's been a pretty amazing 48 hours, I'll be very honest with you," Budenholzer said on Wednesday as he was introduced by Hawks general manager Danny Ferry. "It's exciting for my family, exciting for me.

"The opportunity to come here with the Atlanta Hawks, when you couple that with coming to the NBA Finals, I'm living a dream."

Budenholzer, 43, spent 19 years with the Spurs, including 17 seasons as an assistant. He was the top assistant for coach Gregg Popovich the past six years, but he may be a new name to many fans outside of San Antonio.

"I'm definitely not a sexy hire," Budenholzer said. "Thankfully, that wasn't on Danny's shopping list."

He said he'll bring lessons learned under Popovich, including a strong defensive philosophy.

"Mike Budenholzer has been extremely important to our success in San Antonio," Spurs star point guard Tony Parker said Tuesday. "He is a great coach. I think the Hawks made an excellent choice and I'm very happy for Coach Bud."

Ferry came to the Hawks last year after two years as vice president of basketball operations for the Spurs. After his close view of Budenholzer's role with the Spurs, Ferry now is looking for the coach to bring at least part of San Antonio's winning system to Atlanta.

"Part of what's exciting about this for me is he has a great understanding of the league," Ferry said. "He's been part of San Antonio. He wasn't just in San Antonio like some of us were, he's been there for the duration. He's seen how it evolved. He's seen how it has grown. Mike, [general manager] R.C. [Buford] and Popp were the ones who were there the whole time."

Ferry said Hawks players will buy into Budenholzer's ability to clearly communicate his plans.

"I think Mike will certainly help us be more mentally tough by implementing clarity on a way to play that guys can and will believe in," Ferry said. "They'll buy in and they'll play hard."

Budenholzer replaces Larry Drew, who was 128-102 in three seasons.

"I'd also like to acknowledge my appreciation and respect for the job Larry Drew did here the last three years," Ferry said. "I enjoyed working with him. We talked again yesterday about things and I wish him great luck and success."

The Hawks lost to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs. It was the team's sixth straight postseason appearance but Ferry is expected to continue his dramatic makeover of the team after trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams in his first year as general manager.

The Hawks are in flux with their roster, as they have just three players under contract for next season and could have in excess of $40 million in salary-cap space. Atlanta is expected to chase top free agents such as Dwight Howard and Chris Paul as well as their own free agents, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.

The Hawks believe Budenholzer, who has interviewed for several jobs in recent years and was also a candidate in Detroit this year, will be able to operate no matter which way the roster decisions go.

Center Al Horford is the lone starter with a guaranteed contract for next season. The only other players with guaranteed contracts are guard Lou Williams, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury, and rookie guard John Jenkins.

Budenholzer said Teague "is someone I feel strongly about and he's part of why I'm excited to get this opportunity. He's a heck of a player. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made on a lot of different fronts, including Jeff. I look forward to working with Danny on that."

Budenholzer said he'll build around Horford and the financial flexibility Ferry began to create by trading Johnson and before the 2012-13 season. Pending decisions on Teague and others, the Hawks could have about $40 million under the cap to spend in free agency.

"We want to build it and so as a coach that is exciting," he said. "That is why to me, that roster element in making the decision was strong."

Budenholzer said he and Ferry will work out how much time he will have for the Hawks while he completes his drive for a fifth NBA championship ring with the Spurs.

"Danny and I are talking and working on that," Budenholzer said before adding he wants to "be sure I finish right with San Antonio. He and I both want Pop to still call us when this is said and done."

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and The Associated Press was used in this report.