(Reuters) - Mike Budenholzer paid his dues during a long apprenticeship with one of the NBA’s most successful franchises and the hard work paid off as he was named head coach of the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.
Budenholzer, 43, spent the last 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, serving the last six years as the top assistant to coach Gregg Popovich, who has taken the Spurs to four National Basketball Association (NBA) titles.
“He has an incredible basketball acumen and has a keen awareness of the league and what it takes to be successful,” Atlanta General Manager Danny Ferry said in a statement.
“His experience and four championships over the last 17 years provide a tremendous foundation for his leadership of our team.”
Budenholzer takes over a Hawks team from coach Larry Drew, whose contract elapsed. Drew steered Atlanta to a 44-38 regular season record and were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by the Indiana Pacers.
As an assistant coach, he helped the Spurs to a league-best 908-438 overall regular season record and NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.
On numerous occasions, he served as the Spurs summer league head coach and also served as an advance scout for Team USA for the 2004 Olympics.
“I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization,” said Budenholzer.
“I knew it would have to be a tremendous situation for me to leave and clearly coming to Atlanta as the head coach of the Hawks is perfect for me.”
Budenholzer will continue serving as the Spurs top assistant until the conclusion of the 2013 NBA Finals, where the Western Conference Spurs will meet the winner of the Eastern Conference series between defending champion Miami Heat and Indiana.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue