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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

It was Griffin’s time to go

On Jan. 23, the Milwaukee Bucks sent shockwaves around the league when they fired first-year head coach Adrian Griffin while the team sat at 30-13, three and a half games behind the first place Celtics.

Immediately after, Marquette alum Doc Rivers was announced as the new head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks. Griffin, who had the all-time third-highest winning percentage (69.8%) amongst fired coaches, was half-way through his inaugural season in charge. He is behind only David Blatt (73.2%) and Jack McKinney (71.4%) on the all-time rankings.

Many were confused at the firing, but stories quickly came out showing that Griffin had deeper issues within the locker room. Starting center Brook Lopez was visibly disgruntled playing under Griffin’s new scheme.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Jamal Collier reported on Griffin’s methods being, “baffling to those inside the locker room who had been accustomed to top-10 defenses.”

Griffin lost the locker room, and the front office did the right thing by attempting to fix the problem by any means necessary. Bringing in an NBA Champion as head coach might bring the postseason heroics the Bucks need.

Griffin attempted to implement his own defensive system in his first season. When the Bucks traded defensive star Jrue Holiday to the Portland Trailblazers for star player Damian Lillard, they lost the core of their defense. The addition of Lillard brought in a great scoring option but added another undersized guard that struggles in the pick and roll game on the defensive end of the court.

The Bucks had the fourth best defense in the NBA in the 2022-23 season posting a 111.9 defensive rating. This number increased to 117.1 under Griffin, good for only 19th in the league. Griffin attempted to utilize a more aggressive system that involved veteran center Lopez blitzing pick and rolls instead of dropping back to protect the basket. The smaller starting guards Lillard and Malik Beasley, get caught up in screening motions at the top of the key and Lopez is forced to step up and guard smaller, faster and younger players.

Before Griffin, Mike Budenholzer served five years from 2018-2023 and had a remarkably successful stint in Milwaukee including a Coach of the Year Award in 2019 and brought Milwaukee its first NBA Championship since Don Nelson led the Bucks in 1971.

Many criticized Budenholzer’s postseason success even after he won a ring. His winning percentage went from (69.3%) in regular season play to (69%) in the playoffs, not exactly a steep fall. Buldenhozer’s firing was very controversial among fans as he won the No. 1 seed in the east that year and claiming the team let him down. The firing showed glimpses of how fast a team can turn on you when you have star players demanding the most and a city that wants to win.

The addition of Lillard adds the biggest star to ever play alongside two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 2024 team has higher expectations than ever, and Griffin fell victim to it. Coaches are getting fired faster and faster across the league and Griffin is simply another piece in the ever-changing wheel of coaches.

The Eastern Conference is filled with teams that are trying to win now. The Celtics, Heat, 76ers and Knicks are all filled with rosters in their primes, and they all know only one of them can win at a time. The NBA Championship window is paper thin, and it can close at any moment. Although the Bucks may have seemed like contenders with Griffin at the helm, the front office should not waste another year of Giannis’s prime without truly contending for another championship.

Even with the Lillard and Giannis partnership still in its infant stages, Giannis’s “Dame Time” will eventually run out. Bringing in an experienced veteran coach with silverware in his trophy cabinet makes more sense than attempting to develop Griffin and his scheme, a plan that could take a few years too long for the core of this team. There is no reason to believe Griffin will not have a successful career later, but the Bucks need a coach ready to win now with the current squad.

This story was written by Conor McPherson. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X at @ConorMcPherson_.

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