When Mike Budenholzer was growing up in a small Arizona town, he cheered for the nearby Phoenix Suns, hoping they could win an NBA title someday. Now, as the Suns were beaten in the NBA Finals, it was Budenholzer and the team he coaches, Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated them.
"I was a big Suns fan growing up," Budenholzer said. "Fond memories of watching the Suns."
Although the 51-year-old has some supporters in his hometown of Holbrook, most Arizona fans wanted the Suns to win the first title in their 53-year history.
"To be from a small town in northern Arizona, and to have that support and to feel how proud everybody is, yeah, it's special," Budenholzer said, according to AFP inputs. "Very appreciative of that love."
After four intense games, the series was deadlocked at 2-2 with the Suns entering Saturday's fifth game in Phoenix in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
However, the biggest support for "Coach Bud", as Budenholzer is often called, comes from his father Vince Budenholzer, who was himself a high school and college basketball coach for 25 years before retiring in 1997.
For Vince Budenholzer, an aggressive approach is all that matters.
"He (His father) wants us to press every minute of every game. He doesn't understand why we don't press more," the Bucks coach said.
"One of his favourite lines to me was, you should press as soon as they get off the bus.
"He has got lots of notes from a long time ago that sometimes he'll bring out and we'll rehash on a yellow pad of paper. But now it's mostly texts."
Somewhere in Budenholzer's approach with the Bucks, his father's desire for aggressive play is evident, albeit upgraded strategically to suit the NBA.
"If you take that notion, that idea of full-court pressure, there's an idea of playing hard and competing and being aggressive," Budenholzer said. "He wanted to press and run, press and run. We don't press, but we try to guard and then run.
"He coached with a ton of passion. I remember it, and hopefully that's what I do."
After a brief playing career in Europe, Mike Budenholzer became a video coordinator for the San Antonio Spurs in 1994. Two years later, he became an assistant to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and was a member of the staff on four NBA championship teams from 1999-2007.
Following his success as an assistant, Budenholzer left to coach the Atlanta Hawks from 2013 to 2018, and after being fired he signed to guide the Bucks. Although the toil has been hard and long, his teams have made seven playoff appearances in eight seasons, with Budenholzer earning NBA Coach of the Year honours in 2015 and 2019 when his teams reached the conference finals.
After all these years, he has finally made it to the NBA Finals. But has luck would have it, his childhood darling basketball team stands between Budenholzer and his personal glory.
"I feel fortunate to have been through the finals before as an assistant coach and watch great players and great coaches work through it," Budenholzer said.
"Any time you're fortunate enough to be around and see this process, as players and an organization, it's good to have a little bit of experience. To draw on that, I think it's a little bit helpful. I don't think it's that big a deal, but it helps."
Budenholzer is an excellent man-manager and Bucks playmaker Khris Middleton appreciates that the coach listens to the players and tells them what he thinks.
"He's a guy that's going to tell you what he sees," Middleton said. "And another thing is just the trust. We see things sometimes differently on the court, bring it to him, ask if we could do it or suggest we do it and he trusts us to go out there and execute that."