MILWAUKEE — Bucks general manager Jon Horst dismissed the idea that input from players is what led him to fire coach Adrian Griffin on Tuesday after just 43 games.
Horst outlined his decision to fire Griffin at a news conference before Wednesday’s 126-116 win over the Cleveland Cavalierssaying he wanted to improve the group at a coaching level in order to maximize the team’s championship window this season. But he denied speculation that Griffin had lost the confidence of his players.
“This is not about players comments,” Horst said on Wednesday. “This is not about things said or unsaid. This is my job. This is the organization’s job at the top to evaluate every single day all areas of the organization and feel like whether we’re getting or not getting the most we can out of that group. If we feel like we could maximize the talent of this group better, we made a change. That’s why we made it.”
Doc Rivers on Wednesday reached an agreement in principle to become the team’s next coach, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but Horst said he would not comment until a deal became official.
Instead, Horst detailed why he was firing a coach he had just hired in June for a team that entered the day 30-13 and in second place in the Eastern Conference.
While Horst defended the decision he made this past summer to replace Mike Budenholzer with Griffin, he also acknowledged that the dynamics of the team had changed since then — mainly, the Bucks acquired superstar Damian Lillard.
“The dynamics and the things that changed after that I think created even more of an urgency,” Horst said. “These are special opportunities. The talent became even more special. The commitment to the team even more significant.”
He added: “I also would say that we believe that this is a good team right now. And with improvements, we have a chance to be great.”
Under Griffin, the Bucks ranked No. 2 in offensive efficiency. However, they dropped from fourth in defensive efficiency last season to 22nd this season, a decline that can partially be attributed to the loss of All-Star guard Jrue Holiday to the Boston Celtics.
“Defensively, we have a talented group I think that can be better than what they’ve been so far,” Horst said. “I know we’re going to be really good offensively, and we’ve got to figure out how to improve defensively, consistently. We’ve had points throughout the season where we’ve been very good defensively. We’ve had points where we’ve really struggled. So, trying to find a consistency and identity on that side is part of this.”
With Rivers’ hiring still not official before Wednesday’s game, Joe Prunty served as the interim head coach against the Cavaliers. He is 24-16 as a head coach in his career, all on an interim basis, including 21-16 as an interim coach for Milwaukee in 2017-18 after the team fired Jason Kidd.
With 38 games remaining in the regular season, Horst said he still believed a new coach would have enough time to leave his imprint on the team. By making a move now, he hoped to give the Bucks a chance to capitalize on a championship window this season.
“I believe that there is enough time for them to find an identity, find a rhythm together and continue to grow,” Horst said. “So, it may feel shortened, but the things that happen in the NBA happen quick all the time, and transition happens all the time. I think we’ll be well adapted to it.”