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Larry Drew Out, Spurs Assistant In as Hawks Coach

The Atlanta Hawks completed the embarrassing handling of Larry Drew by hiring San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to be their head coach, even as Drew remains under contract until the end of next month.

General manager Danny Ferry, in an unprecedented maneuver,  told Drew that he could retain his job only if Ferry did not lure someone he liked better for the position. Drew, meanwhile, realized that meant he was out and has interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching position.

Budenhozler reunites with Ferry, who was an executive in San Antonio before becoming general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and then the Hawks. The Spurs granted permission to the Hawks to negotiate with Budenholzer during the break between their Western Conference finals victory and the start of the NBA Finals on June 6.

Given the relationship between Ferry and Budenholzer and their shared philosophies under Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, the talks moved rapidly to a conclusion on Tuesday.

Drew and Houston Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson are finalists for the Bucks head coaching job. Former Lakers assistant Steve Clifford also was a finalist, but Clifford agreed to terms with the Charlotte Bobcats for their head coaching vacancy on Monday.

The Bucks are huddling this week to decide whether to expand their search to include Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, who does not have a contract for next season. The Grizzlies’ season ended on Monday night with a sweep at the hands of the Spurs, who advanced to their fifth NBA Finals since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997.

Ferry made a point of expanding his search beyond Budenholzer while the Spurs’ top assistant was unavailable as San Antonio was advancing through the playoffs. But in the final analysis, Ferry was most comfortable with Budenholzer as he attempts to incorporate the San Antonio way into his rebuilding project in Atlanta.

The Hawks spoke with Drew, Stan Van Gundy, former Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan and CSKA Moscow coach Ettore Messina during their search.

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