Bucks GM Jon Horst, a champion with humble roots

So many heroes. The Milwaukee Bucks had no shortage of them to move towards this NBA championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course, tops the list. Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez too. The actors have stepped up. Mike Budenholzer is now Champion Head Coach after being Assistant Champion. They are all etched forever in the tradition of Bucks.

Garth Pleasant should be too.

He got a phone call 15 years ago. What he did with it helped the Bucks win that title.

It stands to reason that even the most ardent Bucks fan might not know who Pleasant is, which is understandable. Pleasant spent nearly four decades coaching at a small Michigan school called Rochester University, and one of the players who could barely leave his bench was a guard named Jon Horst – who would go on to become the Bucks general manager and assemble a lot of what is now an NBA Championship roster.

Without Pleasant, Horst might be working at FedEx right now. True story.

“He was the subject of our program,” Pleasant said, “although he played very little.”

Horst, by all accounts, was not a star player on his college basketball team. He rarely played at what was then called Rochester College. And while stepping onto the bench hasn’t always been easy for Horst to accept, Pleasant couldn’t have been more grateful for his attitude.

So when he got that call in 2006 asking if anyone on his roster would be suitable for an internship, Horst was the player Pleasant chose to recommend. The call was from Joe Dumars’ office, the offer was from the Detroit Pistons, the pay was around $ 0.

Horst took the concert.

He was awesome, always working, always listening, living on cheap food and desperately trying to stay in the NBA even though he had an offer for a leadership position at FedEx. Finally, John Hammond left Detroit for Milwaukee, took Horst with him …

“And the rest is history,” Pleasant said.

Horst is only 38 years old, was previously one of the NBA Executive of the Year and is now the general manager of the reigning world champions. He managed trailer parks and dug ditches. He entered the NBA through the lowest level of the gateways. He worked tirelessly, climbing the ranks. He hired Mike Budenholzer to coach the Bucks, rocked the trades that brought Holiday and others. He found the parts needed to complete Antetokounmpo and Middleton.

Here they are, world champions.

“When he got the job, people would call me asking who Jon Horst was,” Pleasant said. “And yes, he inherited from Giannis and Middleton. But look at what he does every year. He made them better and better. I hope he now gets all the credit he deserves.

Oh he will.

The Bucks could also be built to last a while. Antetokounmpo signs a supermax contract. Middleton, Holiday, Lopez and Pat Connaughton are also locked up for years to come. Horst has clearly put something in place that will last, the Bucks have shown they’re not afraid to spend, and the fun thing about winning a championship is that a lot of people suddenly want to come in. your city and play.

And it all comes barely a week after they lost the first two games to Phoenix and looked like they were about to get sucked into those NBA Finals.

Never say again that a team needs to tank, that a team needs to be in a major market to build a winner, that a team needs a bunch of top five picks to be enough. talented to win a title. The Bucks debunked all of these theories – and then some.

“We had a theme called ‘And Then Some’,” Pleasant said. “We are a denominational university and it comes from the Bible. When someone needs something, you do it, and then some. That’s what Jon has always been.

Horst, without a doubt, is now high time. No need to get on the bench anymore. No need to maintain trailers. No more internships.

But he never forgot who he is, where he came from and who helped him either.

That’s why an SUV pulled up outside Pleasant, Michigan’s home on Tuesday morning, ready to take the 72-year-old coach and his grandson for a seven-hour drive to Milwaukee for Game 6. Horst l ‘quietly called earlier in the week, offering her tickets and a hotel room. Pleasant had planned to drive himself; Horst didn’t hear of it and arranged for the car service.

Horst needed him to see what this internship recommendation meant for him.

It changed her life.

It started his championship journey.

The kid who wasn’t good enough to play in college is now on top of the NBA world, helping the Bucks win their first title in half a century.

“He says I was a big part of who he is,” Pleasant said. “I was only a small part. He did everything else. He made it happen.

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Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for the Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds (at) ap.org

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More NBA AP: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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