Griffin Holds Keys to Bucks’ Offseason Labyrinth


At 2 p.m. on May 27, I was sitting on the couch watching ESPN when something flashed up on the screen — it said Milwaukee had hired somebody from Toronto.

My first thought was Nick Nurse. It had to be. Of the three final candidates for the head coaching vacancy, Nurse was certainly the fan favorite.

So, I frantically clicked on Twitter and typed in W-o-j and the first tweet that popped up was the announcement of the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching job. Surely enough, it was a man from the Toronto Raptors’ bench last season.

But it wasn’t Nurse. 

Adrian Griffin: The Bucks’ Dark-Horse Candidate 

Adrian Griffin was an NBA assistant coach for nearly 15 years before he got his big break late last month. At a press conference announcing his hiring earlier this month, Griffin noted how his journey as a coach had come full circle. At the end of his nine-year NBA career in 2008, Griffin found his way onto Milwaukee’s coaching staff.

And now the 48-year-old is back in Milwaukee, this time as the lead man.

How did a long-time assistant coach with no head-coaching experience land one of the most coveted jobs in the NBA, though?

Adrian Griffin is Giannis’ Guy

On May 17, Bucks forward Bobby Portis took to Twitter to reveal what he thought was one of the biggest woes for Milwaukee in the playoffs. “Only thing hurt us was [Darvin Ham] leaving. That ain’t talked about enough,” Portis wrote. 

Ham was an assistant coach in Milwaukee before taking over as the Lakers’ head coach last season. He was an immensely important presence in the locker room. One fact is clear from Portis’ comments: having a guy in the locker room that the players relate to is imperative for this squad — and most crucially, for Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that it is important for Antetokounmpo to have a good relationship with his coach. That relationship didn’t seem to exist with former coach Mike Budenholzer. 

The two-time MVP felt like there was a connection that could be forged with Griffin that simply wasn’t there with Budenholzer. The Athletic reported that Antetokounmpo met with all three finalists for the job and that Griffin had his endorsement.

For general manager Jon Horst, it would be difficult to go against the endorsement of the man that has been, is, and will be the focal point of your franchise for years to come. 

Thankfully he didn’t.

Adrian Griffin’s Message to Bucks fans

Griffin has been on the bench of a championship team before. He was coaching alongside Nurse when the Raptors won the 2019 title. His experience with that team also meant that he had experience coaching a superstar: Kawhi Leonard.

At last week’s introductory press conference, Griffin relayed: “You’ll be amazed also that players like Giannis — these guys want to be coached.”

Happily, Giannis expressed an unconditional openness to Griffin’s ideas.

“And obviously, I was sitting there with him and I asked him about his vision about how he wants to develop and how he wants to expand his game, but he’s made it clear from day one that he’s extremely open and on board.”

No matter how surprising it may be on the surface to hire someone with no head-coaching experience, the shock eases when you realize that the Bucks’ star player wanted a coach with no leading experience. And Antetokounmpo is putting his trust in Griffin without having played a single minute in his system.

One of the most significant takeaways from the conference is that Griffin isn’t going to scrap everything and revamp the Bucks. That would be an ill-advised solution. After all, Milwaukee had the best record in the league in three of the last five seasons — including last year. 

“The foundation is strong here,” Griffin said. “You know, this is not something we got to rebuild. Or uproot. And I told [Horst] that the very first meeting. I said, look, you guys are doing some really good stuff here. I just want to add to it. I feel like my experiences can add great value to what we’re doing. So it’s gonna be a partnership from day one.”

It All Starts With Giannis

Already, Griffin is forging a relationship with Antetokounmpo. He was seen with the former Finals MVP at the Greek League Finals on June 11.

With a superstar that not only trusts the new coach but endorsed him, there isn’t much for Bucks fans to worry about chemistry-wise. 

There’s always the question about the X’s and O’s side of coaching though. Perhaps Griffin will be better at making in-game adjustments than Budenholzer was. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing about that advantage until we’ve seen Griffin coach. So, at the moment, all we know is that he is a pro-player hire.

He is a former player that can connect to the current players. Ultimately, only time will tell whether Griffin was the solution.

Looking Ahead

Of course, there are a lot of other factors in play this offseason that will have profound impacts on next season. 

For example, Shams Charania reported that all-star wing Khris Middleton underwent successful surgery on his right knee following the Bucks’ exit against Miami. Middleton has struggled with a string of injuries since his injury early in the 2022 Playoffs against Chicago. A healthy Middleton could be the ultimate solution.

There’s the question of whether Horst should make any trades, and if he does, who should be on the way out?

There are many free-agency decisions to be made: primarily those of Middleton and All-Defense selection Brook Lopez. It seems likely that the pair will return, especially Middleton, who reportedly attended a dinner with Antetokounmpo and Bucks management. 

However, other role players have free-agency decisions that could shape Milwaukee’s roster next season. Players like Jae Crowder, Jevon Carter, Joe Ingles and Wesley Matthews could play major roles should they return. Their potential departures could open the door for the Bucks to get younger — something that would be better done sooner rather than later.

The string of decisions started with Griffin, and the Bucks seem confident that they got their guy. But the road to next season has only taken its first turn.

Oscar Robertson & Giannis Antetokounmpo Then/Now Bobblehead!

The Big O. The Greek Freak. This Oscar Robertson & Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks Then and Now Bobblehead is here to celebrate two generational talents in one epic collectible.

About Ben McCormick

Ben McCormick is a sports writer from North Carolina. He has run independent blogs and begun writing for The Lead in 2023. He writes for The Daily Tar Heel as well, where he has worked since September of 2022.

    Recommended for you

    Powered by themekiller.com