Well-connected Wisconsin Herd general manager Dave Dean, who doubles as vice president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, says he spoke to about 50 candidates before hiring 2011 University of Kansas graduate Chase Buford as head coach of the Bucks’ G League team in Oshkosh.
“Chase is an absolute slam dunk for us as a franchise and organization going forward,” Dean told the Appleton Post-Crescent at a news conference Aug. 7 introducing the San Antonio, Texas native as coach of a team that went 12-38 a year ago.
“Everything is about his background, who he is as a person, what he believes in, culture, accountability and communication is really on another level and I think he’s going to be a great partner. I know for myself, I know for the organization, from the Bucks to the Herd, we found a great one in Chase and we’re extremely excited to have him with us.”
Though he’s just 30, Buford — the son of five-time NBA champion general manager R.C. Buford of the San Antonio Spurs and former player for Hall of Famer Bill Self at KU — has built an impressive resume.
Chase Buford last season served as assistant coach for the Delaware Blue Coats, the G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2017-18, he served as assistant coach for the Erie BayHawks, the Atlanta Hawks’ G League team. The Hawks that season were coached by current Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer.
From 2015-17, Buford served as coordinator of player development for the Chicago Bulls. His career began in 2012 with the Atlanta Hawks, where he started as regional scout and was promoted to video intern.
“I’m thrilled, really excited to work with ‘coach Bud’ and his staff again,” Buford told The Star in a phone interview on Wednesday. “It’s a chance to really spread my wings, so I’m very excited.”
Buford went into the interview process for the Herd head coaching job not knowing what to expect.
“I talked to Dave Dean — the general manager was my first interview. I thought it went really well.,” Buford said. ‘”Bud’ actually kind of really grilled me. We had a tough conversation in a lot of ways. I think he really wanted to know if I was ready and honestly I didn’t know if I’d get it (job).
“I wasn’t that shocked. I was very pleasantly surprised when I got the call,” Buford added.
Shortly after accepting, he learned the Bucks had signed former KU guard/consensus national player of the year Frank Mason to a two-way contract, meaning Mason is contractually bound to play for both the Bucks in the NBA and Herd in the G League in 2019-20.
“We got Frank which is amazing for me,” Buford said. “He’s an NBA player (spending first two years in league with Sacramento Kings). The fact we have him on 2-way … hopefully we can see him a little bit this year. That would be great.
“I got off a flight when the news broke (of Mason signing with Bucks). I had about 10 texts. I couldn’t believe it. It was awesome. Coach Self talks about Frank as highly as he talks about any player he’s ever coached. I’m excited to hopefully get to work with him quite a bit. Frank has been in Milwaukee. He’s had a chance to work out there a few weeks. I spoke to him earlier today. He’s in California right now (working out). We’ve been in close contact. He’s been awesome, great to work with so far.”
The Bucks as an organization obviously believe the 25-year-old Mason needs some seasoning in the NBA’s minor league system en route to possibly emerging as an NBA regular. The G League provides such an opportunity for players and coaches, Buford indicated.
“It is a unique place,” Buford said of the G League. “It’s definitely not all the glitz and glamour of the NBA. It’s growing into a competitive league where you get to learn and do a lot. So from a developmental standpoint for players and staff like myself it’s a great place to go learn and and gain experience, play games, coach games. You get a chance to do that where maybe your mistakes aren’t as magnified.”
Buford was recently in Lawrence for a trip interrupted by his hiring.
“I was hoping maybe to get a chance to help Brady (Morningstar) and coach the (Self Made) group with him,” Buford said of the KU alumni team that practiced five days in Lawrence before heading to Wichita where it lost to Sideline Cancer in its only game in the single-elimination TBT regional.
“The job was reporting to Milwaukee right away. I came down and worked with Brady planning out the first practice and give some assistance. I had to get up to Milwaukee right after that.”
Buford did visit with his college coach, Self, while in town.
“He’s obviously proud and happy for me,” Chase Buford said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without coach and his staff. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to maybe be little bit like him in some small way.”
Buford has also spoken with former KU assistant Joe Dooley, head coach at East Carolina, KU’s current staff members and some of his teammates from KU’s 2008 NCAA title team.
“A bunch of guys reached out when they heard the news,” Buford said. “I’ve not had a chance to talk to everyone. But former teammates, guys I’ve worked with around the league ... it’s very humbling to have a lot of guys reach out, really cool.”
Currently one of the league’s top franchises, the Milwaukee Bucks advanced to the 2019 Eastern Conference final, losing to Toronto in six games.
“I just want to say how excited I am to be back in the Midwest,” Buford told the Appleton paper on the day he was introduced as coach. “My hope for our group and myself is that we can be engaging and build some lasting relationships with the fans in the community here, the people of Wisconsin.
“Also, what a standout organization they have. You can see everything Milwaukee’s doing. (The Bucks) are first-class in everything they do. The Herd seem to be the same way in everything I’ve experienced so far. That first-class mentality of how we handle the players and everything that we do, just to put forth an environment that’s conducive to development and growth is something I’m really excited about the Herd. October can’t come soon enough,” he added of training camp, “but looking at the team so far, I couldn’t be more excited.”