Bucks redemption

Bucks redemption

If there was anything the firing of Adrian Griffin proved, it’s that the presence of stars makes winning an immediate objective. And, in this light, there can be no mistake: “winning” means nothing less than claiming the ultimate prize. The erstwhile head coach was in possession of a seemingly heady 30-13 slate halfway through his first season, good enough for second in the competitive East. And yet he got the axe because of unmistakable signs that he did not have the tools needed to steer the Bucks to a championship run.

In the end, it didn’t matter that Griffin got the appointment because of an endorsement from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time Most Valuable Player awardee withdrew his support as soon as it became clear that his initial bet would not be able to grow into the job fast enough to his liking. That the Bucks went all in for Damian Lillard, even at the expense of highly regarded Jrue Holiday, served to underscore the win-now mode that permeated the locker room, and the ensuing realization that someone else — less behind the ears, more championship-savvy — was needed at the helm.

It’s easy to look back and say the Bucks didn’t exactly change gears midstream. After all, they already had Mike Budenholzer, who netted them the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2021 — manning the fort. Their very impatience led them to give him the pink slip after an unanticipated first-round exit in the immediate past Playoffs. Never mind that he poured himself into his work despite losing his brother to an accident, and that Antetokounmpo suffered from an injury and missed two games in the series. They were looking to improve their standing pronto, and so swung the pendulum the other way to settle in on Griffin.

Now, the Bucks have apparently gone the other extreme. As if to highlight their  faux pas, they’ve decided to tap Doc Rivers for the hot seat. Just like Budenholzer, he has gone all the way. He just did it with a far more talented roster, and at a time when the National Basketball Association was vastly different. Sixteen years removed from reaching the pinnacle of success, he needs to show that he’s equally adept with his Xs and Os in a pace-and-space environment. And to argue that this is a big ask would be an understatement.

Rivers’ accomplishments notwithstanding, he has developed a reputation as a poor tactician. Not for nothing has he already lost 10 Game Sevens, including his last five. And not for nothing has he wasted the last nine opportunities to steer his charges to the conference finals. Will he be the Bucks’ steadying force en route to redemption? Or will he slowly wear out his welcome, similar to his stints with the Clippers and Sixers? These questions are best answered by outcomes. In the meantime, he brings hope.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.