To fire or not to fire? That will be a decision that the Portland Trail Blazers must make regarding Chauncey Billups. The answer is most likely no. I would argue that no coach in the league has faced as much of an uphill battle as Billups.
When the Blazers fired Neil Olshey, the general manager who hired him, I’d imagine that Billups was immediately on high alert. On top of that, they went forward by trading away stars and then shutting down Damian Lillard. So I have a hard time saying that he was put in a situation to succeed.
But teams are always looking to improve, which means getting the best option. In his two seasons since joining the team, he is 60-104. He has finished fourth in the division twice and missed the playoffs in both years, despite having a generational talent on his side.
Again, will he be fired? No. In fact, the Blazers have come out and voiced their support for their head coach.
“A lot of things go into a team struggling, and I’ve never been a fan — even going back to Terry — of blaming the coach,” Lillard said. “I think there are a lot of things on the court, and that you can see in the film, that us as players have to be better about. The last two years, we’ve been really young, and I think it’s hard for a first-time coach to have a young team, where you have to do so much teaching.”
But, this is a business, and in business, you get the best guy you can. That said, I think Portland must do their due diligence and check out Mike Budenholzer. Was he just fired for underperforming in Milwaukee? Yes. Does he have an incredible track record that includes a Finals championship? Yes, he does.
Here’s what Budenholzer would bring to the table:
Ten years of head coaching experience with two different franchises
484 wins and a winning percentage of over .600
Nine years of experience in the NBA playoffs
NBA Finals Championship
He has coached a legitimate superstar player
What’s pretty ironic is that while Lillard doesn’t seem ready to get the bus moving on Billups, he was surprised that the Bucks moved on from the coach.
“Folks out here firing championship coaches as soon as they don’t win the chip,” Lillard tweeted.
And it isn’t just guys like Lillard who were surprised. Budenholzer’s firing raised other eyebrows, too, including from a coach that everyone would give an arm and a leg to get.
“My first response is not necessarily shock,” said Kerr. “It’s more disappointing because Bud is a fantastic coach, just won a championship, and has been wildly successful in his coaching career. “This is the business we’re in,” Kerr added. “It happens quickly. Expectations every year for every team are so high, and only one team can win. It’s sad news for the coaching profession. We all believe Bud deserved a lot better. We also are aware that this is the job we chose, and we’re all vulnerable.”
He is exactly right. Why would the Bucks get rid of a guy who has proven that he has what it takes to get the final job done? Maybe a change of scenery is exactly what Budenholzer needs to get the Blazers back on track.
There is something about the current cycle of what is happening in Portland that is holding them back every single year. While they are getting everything out of Lillard, they aren’t getting enough out of the rest of the team.
When I look back at 2021 and what Budenholzer did, he is exactly what the Blazers need. He didn’t just get what he needed out of Giannis Antetokounmpo; he got it out of Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Pat Connaughton. He knows how to get the job done when there is a superstar in place, but there is more than just him.
Budenholzer is going to up the game of the entire roster, and it’s easy for a guy to do that when he walks in on the first door and is wearing an NBA Championship ring. The Blazers need someone who is a proven winner. They aren’t about to steal away Steve Kerr, Eric Spoelstra, or one of the coaches that took a Lebron James team to the Finals.
But they can get the next best thing, and that is a guy who just won in 2021. I know that it’s unlikely that Billups is heading anywhere, but if the Bucks are serious about winning and winning while Lillard is still part of the equation, they need to put some serious thought into getting a head coach that knows how to get it done.
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