EXTRA PREP IDEAL FOR HAWKS COACH

Atlanta Hawks Media Day

Two rookie coaches. Two very different resumes. However Mike Budenholzer insists his lack of playing pedigree will be no impediment to success when the Atlanta Hawks face the Brooklyn Nets in London on Thursday.

While Budenholzer was dividing his post-college career between a stint with Edinburgh-based Pentland Star and a year spent in the Danish League, his opposite number Jason Kidd was living the high life in the NBA, earning All Star nods and making appearances in the Finals during almost two decades as a pro.

Last summer, Kidd became a rarity: receiving a show of utmost faith from the Nets in plucking him straight from the close of his stint on the court with an offer to make his name off it.

By contrast, Budenholzer, aged 42, was a man of convention. Lengthy service as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, four titles as a chief aide to Gregg Popovich, his was the route where you have paid your dues.

“There’s been examples where players, guys like Jason Kidd, have gone from playing to be very successful,” he states. “Larry Bird, Doc Rivers are just a couple.

“But for me, my preparation to be a head coach, it was critical to spend 19 years in San Antonio and to be with Gregg Popovich, and with the players too. You learn a tonne from the head coach and you learn a tonne from your fellow assistant coaches and colleagues. But you also learn a lot from the players.

“As you’re working in this league with elite players, it’s great the exchanges you have and how you can share. There’s a real give and take at the professional level. All of that hopefully went into me being as prepared as possible.”

It was been a promising start in Atlanta – but a very different experience from Kidd whose Nets’ baptism has been fiery and often traumatic, with the axing of his lead assistant Lawrence Frank and the under-performance of his£100 million roster.

He will also be without Deron Williams this week, who has been ruled out of the trans-Atlantic trip due to an ankle injury.

However the Hawks come to London with an absentee of their own: and the recurring challenge of managing without the services of All Star forward Al Horford, whose season-ending injury has shifted the balance of their approach.

But not their ambition, Budenholzer confirms. There have no been conversations with GM Danny Ainge about the potential for dropping back into the lottery rather than pressing on in their attempt to retain a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference.

“None,” he states. “We’re trying to build something here and we’re trying ton create a culture that has defensive habits. Offensively our habit is about moving the ball. We don’t want to compromise anything we’re building going forward.

“We’re going to take this season. We’re going to compete. We’re making competing every night a priority and hopefully that leads to success, and a building block going forward for our entire organisation that we can sustain.”

Arriving on Wednesday in the UK will bring back memories for Budenholzer, not just of his four-month spell in Scotland’s capital but of the prior trips to Europe with the highly-international Spurs.

The first was in 1999, when San Antonio went to Milan for the much-lamented McDonald’s Championship, when they were given the fright of their lives before overcoming Italian side Varese.

It was the last time an unofficial world club champion was crowned. Last year, FIBA revived an Inter-Continental Cup between the top teams in Europe and the Americas, claimed by Euroleague winners Olympiacos.

There have been calls for the NBA winners to participate in another integrationist step for American basketball, one that might banish the out-dated trend for their title holders to declare themselves as ‘world champions’.

The Spurs, ever outward-looking, were one of the first teams to drop that tag from their banners. But Budenholzer believes that greater internationalisation should be reserved from national teams.

“There’s been a lot of talk about trying to educate that the (World Cup) is being played in Spain, how important they are, the level of competition and how special it is to win a world championship,” he said. “And the USA’s been able to do that.

“But I think the NBA champion is the NBA champion. Sometimes that world champion gets thrown into it. I’ve been close to that debate and that discussion. I think the club over there in the ACB or in Russia, or Olympiacos and the Greeks teams, I think it’s great that we have the NBA and they have the Euroleague.

“You get those teams to play each other. Maybe some day… but for now the world championship is Argentina and Spain and the United States… and that’s the world champion.”

Watch Hawks-Nets on Thursday, 7.45pm on BT Sport 1.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

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