PHOENIX — Mike Budenholzer’s eyes filled with tears as he talked about his past in Arizona, describing an idyllic childhood in the small town of Holbrook, about three hours northeast of Phoenix.

Those tears dried up in a hurry when talking about his future.

“It boggles my mind, like the mind, to think that I’m going to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” Budenholzer said Friday during an introductory news conference in downtown Phoenix.

Budenholzer, 54, will replace Frank Vogel, who was fired on May 9 after a disappointing season. The two-time NBA Coach of the Year will be tasked with getting more out of his trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal as the franchise continues its championship chase.

The group never gelled last season under Vogel, finishing with a 49-33 record before being swept by Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs.

“I’m excited to work with this roster and these players,” Budenholzer said. “We have great players. With great players comes great expectations. I think we accept that.”

Budenholzer spoke Friday in front of a few dozen family and friends, including his 94-year-old father, Vince, whom Budenholzer described as “the original Coach Bud.” Mike Budenholzer won the 2021 NBA title while leading the Milwaukee Bucks — a championship that came at the expense of the Suns.

Phoenix has never won a title, advancing to the Finals three times in 56 seasons.

Budenholzer was fired by the Bucks in 2023 after five seasons and did not coach in the NBA last season. He also coached the Atlanta Hawks from 2013-18 and had a record of 484-317 over 10 seasons.

Before going to Atlanta, Budenholzer spent 17 years as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich.

“This year has been really healthy for me,” Budenholzer said. “I had a list of priorities, and delving into my kids and my family, which is so important. We’ve been through a lot. So really, the time I got to spend with my kids was pretty amazing. My son’s a senior in high school — going to every one of his games — Driving home, you say, “Cool, I got a present.”

As much as he would love the opportunity to recharge, he’s ready to get back on the field.

He added: “I would like to continue training for as long as possible.”

In addition to bringing in Budenholzer, the Suns are close to hiring Brooklyn Nets executive Matt Tellem to the franchise’s front office, sources told ESPN’s Tim McMahon on Friday.

The organization faces a difficult task in reshaping the Suns roster. Phoenix doesn’t have much room to maneuver under the league’s salary cap due to the big contracts of Booker, Durant and Beal. The team’s other two projected players — Grayson Allen and Jusuf Nurkic — are also under contract for next season.

The Suns did not have a true point guard last season and struggled with turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter. Budenholzer made it sound like he wanted to add at least one point guard during the offseason.

“The conversations have been great and there’s no doubt that we need to look at the entire roster and talk about point guard,” Budenholzer said. “I’m sure it’s a hot-button issue here, whether it’s with the media, the players or the front office. We need to think about it.

“We need to be able to play without one. Maybe we need to be able to have one. We need to be versatile – play in different ways.”

But before he started thinking about goalkeepers or turnovers, the coach spent most of Friday relishing his chance at his dream job.

“The biggest message I want you to hear is that I would coach this team if it were on the moon,” Budenholzer said with a smile. “I would have coached this team if it had been in Alaska. If those players had been in Denmark… I would have gone anywhere to coach this team.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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