Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

The Milwaukee Bucks fired Adrian Griffin as coach on Tuesday after just 43 games despite having one of the NBA’s top records midway through his first season.

“This was a difficult decision to make during the season,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement announcing the move. “We are working immediately toward hiring our next head coach. We thank Coach Griffin for his hard work and contributions to the team.”

Joe Prunty, who had been an assistant coach on Griffin’s staff, will serve as the Bucks’ interim head coach. Horst will speak at a news conference Wednesday, before the Bucks’ home game with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Milwaukee is 30-13 to tie the Minnesota Timberwolves for the league’s second-best record entering Tuesday. The Bucks are 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

But the dip in Milwaukee’s defensive performance had raised concerns about the Bucks’ viability as a championship contender even after they had acquired seven-time all-NBA guard Damian Lillard before the season to team up with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks rank 22nd in the NBA in defensive rating — down from fourth a year earlier — despite having two of the NBA’s top defenders in Antetokounmpo and 7-footer Brook Lopez. Antetokounmpo was named the NBA’s defensive player of the year in 2020, while Lopez finished second in last season’s balloting.

Milwaukee had given Griffin his first head coaching job last summer after firing Mike Budenholzer, who led the Bucks in 2021 to their first title in half a century. The Bucks had posted the most combined regular-season and playoff wins of any team during Budenholzer’s tenure and had the league’s best regular-season record in three of his five seasons on the job.

Budenholzer’s firing came after the top-seeded Bucks were stunned 4-1 by the Miami Heat in the first round of last season’s playoffs.

Griffin, 49, had spent 16 seasons as an NBA assistant, including the last five with the Toronto Raptors. That followed a nine-year NBA playing career.

Taking over a squad with two members of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team in Antetokounmpo and Lillard put Griffin under a major spotlight at the beginning of his head coaching career. An early warning sign regarding Griffin’s tenure came before the season with the abrupt departure of assistant coach Terry Stotts.

Stotts had more than 1,000 games of head coaching experience, which figured to benefit Griffin as he began his own head coaching career. Stotts had called accepting the assignment a “no-brainer,” but he left the staff less than a week before the season opener.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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