The Milwaukee Bucks made the surprising decision to fire head coach Adrian Griffin this week despite the team owning the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Griffin was canned because the defense was terrible, they had a point-differential of a team that would lose in the first round, and reportedly because Griffin lost the locker room, including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Doc Rivers has agreed to a deal to be the new head coach of the Bucks, but he wasn’t coaching the team on Wednesday night as they played their first game since Griffin’s firing against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With interim coach Joe Prunty at the helm, the Bucks beat the Cavs, 126-116, to end Cleveland’s eight-game winning streak.
The Bucks’ vibes were clearly immaculate from the very start of the game. Does this look like a group that’s happy their head coach was fired?
There was always going to be a ton of pressure on the Bucks this year after pulling off a bold trade for Damian Lillard just before the season. Milwaukee won a championship with this core in 2021, but one title isn’t enough for a player who has his sights set on being an all-time great like Antetokounmpo.
The rest of the roster is getting older. Anything less than a championship this season is going to feel like a failure. Firing Griffin with such a good record might have seemed harsh at first blush, but most people who watched the Bucks this year agreed they never looked like a truly elite team under Griffin.
It’s been reported that Antetokounmpo preferred Griffin over Nick Nurse when the Bucks were in the market for a head coach this past summer. Nurse would eventually join the rival Philadelphia 76ers as head coach. After the win over the Cavs, Giannis was asked about any role he played in Griffin’s hiring or firing, and gave a long answer to essentially say it wasn’t his decision.
During Giannis Antetokounmpo’s postgame press conference tonight, @LoriNickel asked Giannis if Bucks coach Adrian Griffin getting dismissed felt any different to him because he was involved in the hiring process of Griffin.
Here is Antetokounmpo’s four-minute response: pic.twitter.com/pDfavTIJcM
— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 25, 2024
The Cavs had been playing so well lately without injured starters Evan Mobley and Darius Garland that this is a legitimately good win for Milwaukee. The Bucks are still the No. 2 seed in the East, but Philly is on their heels.
It’s Doc Rivers’ job to get the Bucks to play up to their potential. Of course, Rivers comes with his own history of playoff failures aside from his 2008 title run with the Celtics. One thing is for sure: the pressure is on Milwaukee despite Giannis already having one championship ring on his finger. Rivers better hit the ground running.