The Milwaukee Bucks made a startling move Monday, firing head coach Jason Kidd, who served has served as the Bucks head coach since 2014. He had a 139–152 record in his 291 games coached in Milwaukee.
"Many factors went into this decision, but ultimately we decided that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our team to the next level and bringing us closer to our goal of winning championships," team GM Jon Horst wrote in an open letter. "We believe that making this change now is important for the organization and gives our players the best chance to reach their full potential this season and beyond."
In the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver talk what is next for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
Andrew Sharp: Jason Kidd has been fired as the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Inc. is free, soon to be under new management. Joe Prunty is set to takeover. I mean I don't know where to begin. I think this is a definite step forward. What do you think?
Ben Golliver: They were underperforming all season long. Kidd had no answers. He kept going back to the same excuse: ‘We’re young, we’re young, we’re young.’ After 20 rounds of going back and forth with the media when they point out your team isn’t that young, you have to come up with a different excuse. He didn’t have one.
There’s no question they’re underperforming. The way Giannis has played this season, they should be much higher in the standings than they have been.
As for Prunty, I remember him from his time as an assistant with the Blazers. Quiet, mild-mannered guy. Certainly doesn’t have the Hall of Fame playing career of a Jason Kidd. It’s going to be a big-time change. He has stepped in at various points of his career. He’s not a novice at all, he’s a lifer assistant coach. But it’s tricky when you make that midseason firing. That can go two ways. You hope it inspires the players and a new voice helps. But when you put in a guy who doesn’t have the commanding personality or Hall of Fame resume, it could go the other way. It’s a gamble there.
At the same time, it was a gamble letting Jason Kidd handle their end-game scenarios. When they’re up four and he’s doing crazy fouling tactics and messing around. One thing that will be interesting to find out in the aftermath: How bought in was Kidd here during these last few months? I think I made some jokes about whether he was trying to get himself fired with some of the crazy strategic things he was doing. But was he really invested in this group and trying to take it to the next level?
From Giannis’s standpoint: This is a hiccup. Michael Jordan went through coach after coach after coach until they finally got it right, until he found one he could trust. Their next hire heading into next season is a big-time hire. If you’re any sort of a coaching candidate with chops, you want that job. The upside is absolutely enormous. The Bucks better be willing to spend big and pay whatever it takes to get a really quality coach in there so we can Giannis’s career unfurl like it’s supposed to.
AS: It is going to be a weird situation for the rest of the year and I think everyone should temper their Bucks expectations accordingly. Jason Kidd has made a couple of really baffling decisions in relation to basic math that have been highlighted in the media. Kidd was really concerning from a big picture standpoint because when a team underachieves year after year you begin looking for short term fixes that can try to put them over the top but I don't think the Bucks were going to do that with DeAndre Jordan but everybody was worried that they would and they have been doing that in the past.
One of the things that I go back to that a lot of people forget now is that they traded Brandon Knight and they brought in Michael Carter-Williams who is a Jeff Schwartz client and I'm sure Kidd actively approved that trade and it was a stupid deal at the time. They would have had a top-five Lakers pick coming this year had they not made that move if they hadn't just trade Brandon Knight directly to Phoenix. So I don't know but that is the reason why you fire Jason Kidd. Every year in taking chances with players that don't make sense and basically putting players in situation where they won't be optimized just screws up the bigger picture in a lot of different subtle ways. I think it was pretty clear to everybody that the Bucks wasn't going to reach their ceiling with him in charge.
I think he did some good things to get them where they are now and It will probably be lost in a lot of people's columns. He wasn't an awful coach for a young team that needed to learn how to win some but in order to go from winning 43 games to 55, he wasn't the guy.
BG: Giannis is not a 40-win player. That was two years ago. It’s time for the next step. I see a tweet from my guy Chris B Haynes who said: ‘Giannis is devastated by this.’ Giannis, from me to you, get over it. It’s okay. Life goes on. Jason Kidd taught you a lot but he’s not the only coach in the NBA. He’s just the one you know the best. There’s plenty of other good coaches and great voices out there to guide your next steps. Think big picture. So much of Giannis’s success has had nothing to do with coaching – it’s his unbelievable talent and work ethic. I hope once the dust settles here he’s able to hone in on that as a very young players and he’s able to refocus for the rest of the season. This doesn’t need to be a lost season for him.
AS: I wonder what happened and what the tipping point was? I'm sure more will trickle out. I just read a tweet from Ryen Russillo and he said that Jabari Parker and Kidd haven't been speaking. I still think Jabari is a really good trade piece for them and if I was them I will try to move him before you have to pay him. But it doesn't seem like Kidd hasn't eben doing anything out of the ordinary. The only thing I can think about is back from last week when he reiterated that the Bucks were still a young team while everyone on the team besides Giannis is like 26 years or older but I don't know.
BG: They just got smacked by Philly by 20+ and they’re fighting for a playoff spot. If you’re ownership, the last thing you want to do is waste an MVP caliber season from Giannis. You can’t be the ninth seed in the East. Come on. Another reason on the timing: It’s not just about the recent losses it’s about the upcoming schedule. They want to put Prunty in position to succeed. They’re about to play Phoenix, Brooklyn, Chicago, Philly, Minny, New York, Brooklyn, New York. That’s only one or two playoff teams out of your next eight games. That should be a nice kick start for Prunty. I'd strongly guess that played a role in why now.