MILWAUKEE (AP) — Former NBA head coach Terry Stotts’ return to the league as a Milwaukee Bucks assistant has reached a sudden conclusion a week before the start of the season.
Bucks coach Adrian Griffin confirmed Stotts’ departure from Milwaukee’s staff while speaking to reporters after a practice Thursday. Griffin declined to comment on the circumstances but said the move was Stotts’ decision.
“It caught all of us off guard, of course, but again, you just support him,” Griffin said. “He was a terrific guy. I learned a lot from him in a very short time. He was really good at what he does. He made a decision –- a personal decision -– and we just have to respect that.”
ESPN first reported Stotts’ departure.
Stotts’ experience was expected to give Griffin a boost as the former Toronto Raptors assistant begins his head coaching career by taking over a team with championship expectations. The Bucks open their season Oct. 26 by hosting the Philadelphia 76ers.
Stotts’ presence also would have provided some familiarity with newly acquired seven-time all-NBA guard Damian Lillard, who spent his first nine NBA seasons playing for Stotts with the Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard said Stotts contacted him directly Wednesday to let him know about the move.
“Everybody was kind of surprised by it,” Lillard said. “It kind of came out of nowhere. I’ve been in this league long enough to know that these types of things happen. Everything continues, so you’ve got to kind of process things like this and other things that may come up and continue to move forward.
“For me, knowing Terry as long as I’ve known him -– playing for him for nine years and him also making this transition for me easier just having a familiar face be such a huge part of it — was a good thing. I think now that I’m settled in, to see him go is unfortunate. It’s sad to see him go. But like I said, everything is still moving forward.”
Stotts owns a career head coaching record of 517-486 that includes stints with the Atlanta Hawks (2002-04), Bucks (2005-07) and Trail Blazers (2012-21).
Lillard said he didn’t expect this sudden move to hinder the Bucks’ focus heading into the season.
“It didn’t come with a lot of drama,” Lillard said. “Me knowing him so well, it just wasn’t a dramatic, big deal. It was just a decision he had come to. It happened early, and it wasn’t loud. It was just abrupt. I don’t think it will be much of a distraction at all.”
Lillard said Saturday after making his preseason Bucks debut that Stotts had helped him adjust to his new team.
“A lot of the things we run is, you know he’s controlling that offense, so it’s all familiar,” Lillard said after that game. “A lot of times, guys are asking me questions when we’re talking about plays because I’m familiar with a lot of this stuff.”
Griffin said Thursday he was still evaluating whether to bring someone else in to fill the void created by Stotts’ exit. Griffin said he had a good working relationship with Stotts.
“It was Terry’s decision, and I respected that,” Griffin said of Stotts’ move. “We did have a great conversation. I can’t disclose what we spoke about out of respect for him, but again, we support him and we’re still excited about the season. We’ve got a great team, a great staff and life is good.”
Stotts had spoken at a Milwaukee Bucks Foundation golf event last month about how much he was looking forward to a return to Milwaukee after spending the last two seasons away from the game. Stotts had worked here twice previously, as a head coach and also as an assistant on George Karl’s staff from 1998-2002.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Stotts said then. “You’re coming back to a championship-caliber team in a city that I love. The fan base is awesome. I’m a Midwest guy. I have a lot of ties to Milwaukee anyway. After being out of coaching for two years, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to be in.”
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