He may be under contract with the Hawks, but Mike Budenholzer wants be the Knicks' next head coach.
Budenholzer was interviewed by the Knicks on Sunday as the Hawks gave New York permission to speak with their current head coach. Though Budenholzer has two years left on his current contract with Atlanta, he wants to win the Knicks' job bad.
"New York's his top choice," a source told The Post's Marc Berman. "If they offered him the job, he'd say yes. He wants to live in New York."
Budenholzer was the 2015 Coach of the Year after leading the Hawks to a 60-22 record with 16 playoff games as well. But since then, the Hawks have spiraled down to the worst team in the East this season with a 24-58 record.
Atlanta's front office -- led by GM Travis Schlenk -- has adopted the tanking formula, as he looks to accumulate young talent to build the Hawks back to their dominate play of 2015. Budenholzer, though, doesn't agree with the formula, but he wasn't given a choice in the matter.
So, Budenholzer is looking elsewhere to take his expertise to flee Atlanta. He was also in the running for the Suns' job, but he pulled his name from consideration last Thursday.
"Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game," the source said. "There's a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn't Mike's decision. He didn't expect it. He doesn't want to lose games."
For Atlanta, some believe the Hawks want to save up their money by paying a new head coach less than the $13 million Budenholzer is owed the next two years.
"Ownership has quite a bit of money on the line," an NBA executive said. "They may be thinking why pay him $6 million a year if they're not a playoff contender? Why not pay someone $2 million a year for the next two years?"
The Knicks, though, are going through their own rebuild. Budenholzer wouldn't be joining a playoff contender if he is awarded the job. He would need to develop the team's young talent in Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, and of course, building around Kristaps Porzingis.
However, Budenholzer has history of tapping into young players' potential over his career.
"He's an excellent coach and teacher," an NBA personnel director said. "He's really a student of the game and did a very good job developing young players. He's a good combo of disciplinarian and players coach. Doc Rivers isn't a bad comparison."
One of his students was Tim Hardaway Jr., who Budenholzer worked with to improve his defense and physicality on the court. He could very well be reunited with him next season.
Other than Budenholzer, the Knicks have interviewed five other candidates for their vacancy including Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, Mike Woodson, and Kenny Smith.
They are also expected to interview former Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, who they will meet in Europe. Spurs assistant James Borrego is also on the list of candidates, but the team must wait until San Antonio is out of the playoffs.