Phoenix Suns address competitive issue with hiring Mike Budenholzer, says GM James Jones

Mike Budenholzer first received a glowing introduction from the original "Voice of the Suns," Al McCoy, who he grew up listening to during his playing days at Holbrook High School in northeast Arizona.

“It is a great honor for me to present to you now a coach that loves the game of basketball,” McCoy said.

Then he got emotional talking about those in attendance, who included his 94-year-old father, and later cleared up how to pronounce his last name.

“This is tough with my dad in the room,” Budenholzer said with a smile. “It’s a long story, but I say Boo-denholzer, but if anybody says Bud-enholzer, that’s fine also. I’m probably going to get in trouble when I go home. It’s too complicated.”

Budenholzer is back in his home state beyond excited to lead the Phoenix Suns as he was formally introduced Friday as their new coach at Footprint Center.

“I would coach this team if it was on the moon,” Budenholzer said.

Budenholzer, 54, is entering a situation where a championship is expected. But he's the third Suns' coach in a 12-month span.

“I’m excited about working with this roster and these players,” Budenholzer said. “We have great players and with great players come great expectations. Embrace that and to understand that how important it is in terms of what we’re doing every day. How are we getting better every day and I think that’s what (is) going to put us in position to realize our potential.”

Team owner Mat Ishbia fired Monty Williams last May and fired Frank Vogel last week after only one season, which ended with Minnesota sweeping Phoenix in the first round. Ishbia, who was not at Friday's introductory press conference, expressed his excitement in a post on X (formerly Twitter) over his latest hire with a picture of Budenholzer holding a purple Suns jersey with his name on the back.

“Proud to have Mike Budenholzer as our new head coach of the Suns!” Ishbia tweeted. “Mike is a proven winner and the right leader to take us to the next level as we work toward our championship goals.”

With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, the Suns went 49-33 to land the sixth seed this past season, but were the first team eliminated from the playoffs. Now Budenholzer has the task of coaching those three with a roster that has limited flexibility due to combined salaries that will put the team over the second league tax apron.

The Suns are projected to have the NBA’s highest payroll next season at essentially $206 million with a luxury tax of almost $105 million. Booker, Durant and Beal are due a combined $150 million.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1), guard Bradley Beal (3), and forward Kevin Durant (35) come together during Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Footprint Center in Phoenix on April 28, 2024.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1), guard Bradley Beal (3), and forward Kevin Durant (35) come together during Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Footprint Center in Phoenix on April 28, 2024.

“You want to have a chance to compete for championships and that’s what we have here in Phoenix and that’s what I’m excited about, competing for championships,” Budenholzer said.

Budenholzer received a five-year deal for $50-plus million in replacing Vogel, who just last June agreed to a five-year, $31-million contract with the Suns after a thorough hiring process.

Like Budenholzer, Vogel coached a team to an NBA championship in the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2019-20 season, but the Suns felt a need to part ways from him after days of evaluation.

“We needed to improve in a lot of areas,” Suns general manager James Jones said at the press conference. “It wasn’t one specific area, but by and large, it was we just felt the timing to shift was right.”

The day Vogel was fired, the Suns were already in the latter stages of landing Budenholzer, who coached the Bucks to an NBA championship in the 2020-21 season as they beat the Suns in the finals.

“We moved quickly to Bud just because when you look at our roster and what our roster needs, he fits it,” Jones said. “I’m a competitive guy and we talked about this, too, throughout this process, Bud must have said 'compete' 95 times in two minutes, but compete at everything. Compete in practice. Compete with each other, against each other. Compete against your opponent, but more importantly, compete with yourself. I thought that was an area of our team where we could be better.”

A two-time NBA Coach of the Year, Budenholzer was fired from the Bucks after the 2022-23 season. He didn’t coach last season, but took time to further connect with his kids, travel and get his mind and body right.

“This year for me was really healthy,” Budenholzer said with his voice cracking from emotion. “I kind of had a list of priorities, diving into my kids and my family, super important. We’ve been through a lot. Really the time with my kids was amazing. My son is a senior in high school. Going to every one of his games, driving home, you're like, wow, I got a gift. So diving into family and kids was awesome."

However, Budenholzer is glad to be back coaching, especially with it being the Suns in his home state.

“It’s like mind-boggling to me, mind blowing to think that I’m going to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” Budenholzer said.

Have opinions about the current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Suns address competitive issue with hiring Budenholzer, says GM Jones