THE Milwaukee Bucks fired Adrian Griffin as coach on Tuesday after just 43 games despite having one of the league’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 thank Coach Griffin for his hard work and contributions to the team.”
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.