Former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer headlines finalists for Brooklyn Nets opening

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 19: Head coach Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts after a call during the second half of Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs against the Miami Heat at Fiserv Forum on April 19, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Mike Budenholzer, who coached the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title in 2021, is a finalist for the Brooklyn Nets job. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) (Patrick McDermott via Getty Images)

Mike Budenholzer, who coached the Milwaukee Bucks to the 2020-21 NBA championship, is reportedly among three finalists for the Brooklyn Nets' head coach opening.

Sacramento Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez and Phoenix Suns associate head coach Kevin Young have emerged as the other two finalists, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

Budenholzer was fired by the Bucks after last season following a loss in a first-round playoff series to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed (with a 58–24 record). Milwaukee made the playoffs in all five of his seasons, during which he compiled a 391–271 regular-season record and that 2021 NBA title.

Prior to joining the Bucks, Budenholzer coached the Atlanta Hawks for five seasons, helping lead the team to four playoff bids and a 60-win campaign in 2014-15.

The Nets' head coach position opened up when the team fired Jacque Vaughn on Feb. 19. Brooklyn had a 21–33 record at the time, leaving them No. 11 in the East. Under interim coach Kevin Ollie, the Nets haven't improved in the standings, while going 11–16.

Ollie has reportedly interviewed with team owner Joe Tsai for the permanent head coach opening, along with several candidates, including New Orleans Pelicans assistant (and former Charlotte Hornets head coach) James Borrego and Heat assistant Chris Quinn. However, it appears that the team has narrowed its search to Budenholzer, Fernandez and Young.

Brooklyn does have three building blocks in guard Cam Thomas, and forwards Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. However, the Nets traded their 2024 first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets in the 2021 deal for James Harden and could lose center Nic Claxton in free agency.

With a payroll around $134 million, general manager Sean Marks also needs to create salary cap room (projected to be $141 million) for next season.