Once a beer salesman, interim coach Joe Prunty now trying to get Bucks to the second round
BY JEFF ZILLGITT, USA TODAY SPORTS
Veteran basketball coach Hank Egan helped get Milwaukee Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty a job twice.
The first one: hawking Anheuser-Busch products in San Diego after Prunty finished college.
The second: a job on Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio staff as an assistant video coordinator.
The first job had its perks.
The second led to a 20-year career in the NBA. It includes stints as an assistant coach/video coordinator on three Spurs championship teams; an assistant on Dallas’ 2006 Western Conference championship team; a role in coaching Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan in their MVP seasons; coaching Duncan, Kyrie Irving and Malcolm Brogdon in their rookie of the year seasons; and being on the bench during coach of the year seasons for Popovich and Avery Johnson.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with a group of people like that,” said the 49-year-old Prunty, who has also had a hand in Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo's development.
Now, Prunty, who joined the Bucks as Jason Kidd’s lead assistant in 2014 and took over as interim coach when the Bucks dismissed Kidd in January, is trying to get the Bucks out of the first round for the first time since 2001. They went six games with Toronto last season after taking a 2-1 series lead and lost to Chicago in six games in 2015.
The Bucks trail Boston 1-0 after taking the Celtics to overtime in the series-opener. Game 2 is Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, TNT)
“What’s been amazing is how good we can be. We’ve had some very good wins and some tough losses,” Prunty said. “This team has the opportunity to do good things.”
The Bucks finished the season 21-16 with Prunty as coach, which is a better winning percentage than the 23-22 record Kidd had this season.
In Prunty’s 37 games, Bucks:
* Improved their offensive rating to 108.7 points per 100 possessions from 107.1.
* Lowered their defensive rating to 106.6 points allowed per 100 possessions from 107.5.
* Increased their net rating to 2.1 (12th in the NBA) from minus-0.4 (17th).
* Improved their three-point percentage allowed and increased their assists per game.
“My background is in trying to get stops,” Prunty said. “If you can get defensive stops, that's it. Offensively, we want to run, but we don’t want to run at the cost of taking a bad shot or committing a turnover. We want is the best quality shot that we can get. How can we get that? First, running. Second, looking for ball movement and multiple touches and attacking or creating matchup (advantages).”
When the Bucks named Prunty interim coach, general manager Jon Horst said Prunty and his staff “will be evaluated and considered as part of our widespread offseason search for our next head coach.”
Prunty isn’t focused on that.
"This is about what this team can do and trying to accomplish that,” he said. “The team has goals it set out at the beginning of the year. This isn’t about me. So many people want to get outside of the moment. To me, if you do your job, that stuff takes care of itself."