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Hawks hire Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer as head coach

Mike Budenholzer (left) is leaving the Spurs after nearly two decades. (D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images) Mike Budenholzer (left) is leaving the Spurs after nearly two decades. (D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)

The Hawks announced Tuesday the hiring of Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer as their next head coach.

"We are thrilled to have Mike as the next coach of the Atlanta Hawks," Hawks GM Danny Ferry said.  "He has an incredible basketball acumen and has a keen awareness of the league and what it takes to be successful. His experience and four championships over the last 17 years provide a tremendous foundation for his leadership of our team."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the hiring.

Budenholzer joins Ferry, who was hired away from the Spurs last summer, as he attempts a franchise makeover in Atlanta. Ferry opted against retaining coach Larry Drew, whose contract expired this summer, after a 44-38 season, a No. 6 seed and a first-round dismissal by the Pacers in the playoffs.

This marks the first head coaching position of Budenholzer's lengthy coaching career. He joined the Spurs as video coordinator in 1994 and was promoted to assistant coach in 1996. He's been linked to a number of head coaching jobs over the years and has also been painted as the head coach in waiting whenever Gregg Popovich decided to retire.

“I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization for the last 19 years," Budenholzer said in a statement. "I knew it would have to be a tremendous situation for me to leave and clearly coming to Atlanta as the head coach of the Hawks is perfect for me. Ownership’s commitment to taking this organization to the next level and creating a unique and special culture, partnering with a general manager like Danny Ferry who I have great respect for, and building a roster that has terrific potential because of the existing core and the ensuing flexibility presents a rare and uniquely positive opportunity.”

The Spurs advanced to the 2013 Finals by sweeping the Grizzlies on Monday. Budenholzer will remain in his role on Popovich's staff until the Finals, set to begin on June 6, are complete.

"I couldn't be happier for Mike for many reasons," Popovich said. "As anyone who's been part of this program knows, he has been more of a co-head coach than an assistant for a long time. His knowledge of the game as well as his ability to teach and develop relationships with players are all special. I will miss him a great deal both professionally and personally and am confident that he and Danny will make a great team as the future unfolds."

Atlanta faces decisions on free agents Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia and Kyle Korver this summer, and center Al Horford and guard Lou Williams are the only Hawks players with meaningful long-term contracts after Ferry shipped out Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams last year. In other words, it's not yet clear exactly what type of roster Budenholzer will have to work with next season or what type of expectations he will face. The Hawks have advanced to the playoffs for six straight seasons but haven't made it past the conference semifinals since joining the Eastern Conference in 1971.

Budenholzer becomes the third assistant coach this week to make the leap to a head coaching position for the first time. The Suns announced the hiring of Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek on Tuesday and the Bobcats agreed to hire Lakers assistant Steve Clifford.

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