Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer relishes about his basketball journey from Edinburgh to Paris.

He claims he’s in the “basketball heaven” by leading the NBA’s hottest team ahead of their meeting with the Charlotte Hornets on Friday evening in the French capital (Sky Sports Mix, 8pm).

It’s a long way from playing in drafty school gyms in Edinburgh to the top of the basketball tree. But he insists he wouldn’t have missed his Scottish League stop for the world as he prepares to lead the NBA’s hottest team into action in Paris this evening against the Charlotte Hornets.

Few would have tabbed the 50-year-old as a future high-achiever during his stint as a high-scoring guard for Pentland almost three decades ago. Since getting his coaching break in Denmark, Budenholzer has worked his way up the ladder in the NBA, winning four titles as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs before twice landing the league’s Coach of the Year prize in the past five years en route.

Scotland, where basketball and studies at Edinburgh University were combined with trips to the pub and ample rounds of golf, remains one of his favoured stops.

He said: “Pentland basketball club was a lot of fun. It was great spending some time in Edinburgh and Scotland. All of the team-mates there are great people. I had the time of my life in Scotland. And I’m very fortunate to still be doing basketball.”

The NBA has moved its annual European game from London to Paris to capitalise on its popularity across the
Channel and the build-up to the 2024 Olympics.

But when Budenholzer previously took the UK detour in 2014 while with the Atlanta Hawks, he tracked down his old Pentland team-mates and invited them to The 02 Arena for a special reunion, he reveals.

And he said: “It was great to see those guys. Especially considering how they took care of me when I was the American college student. When I went over there, they bought me pints and food and found me a little of work on the side for a few pounds. So it was great to see those guys. They’ll be forever in my memory and my hearts.”

He will gun for title number five this term with Milwaukee who possess the NBA’s best record at mid-season, fuelled by Giannis Antetokounmpo – the so-called Greek Freak who has gone from begging on the streets of Athens as a kid to reigning over the sport as the league’s Most Valuable Player.

This, says Coach Bud, is the kind of crew he always wanted to have at his disposal.

He said: “It’s basketball heaven. It’s a real team. A great player in Giannis. But everyone around him is playing really well. It’s an exciting team. It’s a team which really guards and defends so I feel really fortunate. And it’s exciting to go back to Europe, to Paris, and hopefully show them good basketball.

“It’s great. The more time our players spend together, including in a new environment, learn a little about the culture in France and do things which are different – take them out of their comfort zone, I think the players always grow and learn from that. And we’re excited about doing it.”

But no title talk has begun yet, he insists, despite the league’s best record.

“We take it day by day, the old boring stuff,” he said. “Are we getting better each day, collectively and individually? All those things, playoffs etc. they’ll fall into place when the season is done.”

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