Wow. It’s been a wild last 20-something hours in the world of Milwaukee Bucks basketball. On Tuesday afternoon, news the team had fired first-year coach Adrian Griffin broke, sending fans into a frenzy. Within minutes, speculation the Bucks were interested in hiring veteran coach and former Marquette standout Doc Rivers surfaced. By last night, rushed reports claiming Rivers had been hired reached national television broadcasts, only to be refuted moments later. As this is being written, Rivers and the Bucks are either close to hammering out a deal to bring him in as the team’s new coach or none of that is happening and excitement just got the best of NBA pundits.
As we wait to see how the dust settles with this ongoing Doc Rivers saga, Bucks assistant Joe Prunty has quietly been appointed to be the team’s interim coach. Unless a Rivers deal is finalized, like, right now and he’s rushed to the arena to coach a team he’s faintly familiar with in time for tip-off, it seems likely Prunty will be Milwaukee’s coach tonight at the very least. While we wait for this Rivers-related head coaching mess to clear up, let’s look back at some Bucks interim head coaches who were appointed during the regular season.
Joe Prunty — 2018, maybe 2024?
In the instance he’s able to lead the Bucks tonight (and beyond?), this won’t be Prunty’s first go-round as the team’s interim head coach. After Jason Kidd’s tumultuous era in Milwaukee ended with a firing in January 2018, Prunty was tapped to help them finish out the season. The Prunty-coached Bucks went 21-16, earning the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They eventually fell to the Boston Celtics in seven games and Prunty’s interim coach tenure was over…until now…maybe.
Jim Boylan — 2013
In early 2013, Scott Skiles was shown the door midway into his fifth season as Milwaukee’s head coach. After that ousting, longtime NBA assistant Jim Boylan—who was beside Skiles on the bench the entirety of his Bucks tenure—was given the role of interim coach for the second time in his career. This time around, Boylan went 22-28 in 50 games, which was somehow still good enough to land Milwaukee the eighth seed in the East despite the team’s losing record. They were stomped by the top-seeded Miami Heat in four playoff games and Boylan would go to Cleveland to serve as an assistant the following season.
Larry Krystkowiak — 2007
When then-Bucks coach Terry Stotts—who coincidentally resigned as an assistant on Griffin’s staff days before Milwaukee started this season—was sent packing with 18 games left in the 2006-07 season, Larry Krystowiak was given reins of the team. He closed out the season with a pretty awful 5-13 record. Miraculously (or maybe not so miraculously, given the state of the Bucks organization at that point in time), his “interim” tag was dropped and he was appointed Milwaukee’s head coach for the 2007-08 season, where he proceeded to go 26-56.
Frank Hamblen — 1991-92
By all accounts, Frank Hamblen was an outstanding coach, but he seemed to mostly excel in the role of assistant coach. Having served as an NBA assistant coach since 1971 (and an assistant under Bucks coach Del Harris since the 1987-88 season), “Ham” finally got a chance to serve as interim head coach when Harris resigned 17 a mere games into the 1991-92 campaign. Hamblen would go 23-42, the Bucks missed the playoffs, and Mike Dunleavy would be hired as head coach the next season.
Hamblen would stay on as a Bucks assistant through the 1995-96 season, then got pulled into Phil Jackson’s orbit…resulting in him winning a total of seven rings as a Bulls and Lakers assistant in the years that followed. Along the way, he’d become the interim head coach of the Lakers in the 2004-05 season and post a 10-29 record in the process. He retired in 2011, following an accomplished 40-year NBA coaching career. Hamblen passed away in 2017 at the age of 70.
Don Nelson — 1976-77
Following a 14-year playing career spanning over 1,000 games, Don Nelson accepted his first assistant coaching job under original Bucks head coach Larry Costello heading into the 1976-77 season. Costello resigned after a 3-15 start that season and Nelson became interim coach, posting a 27-37 record. He officially became head coach and general manager the next season. With more than 500 wins spread over 10 full seasons with Milwaukee after that, it’s safe to say Costello’s replacement worked out alright.