As the Sydney Kings continued their pursuit for a new head coach to replace Adam Forde, it was a convenient late season match-up between the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets that set the wheels in motion for the eventual hire of Chase Buford.
Head coach of the G League affiliate Wisconsin Herd, Buford was a valuable member of Mike Budenholzer's bench during the 2020-21 season as the development league was lost to COVID.
As the Bucks were preparing to host the Rockets, Buford and former Sydney head coach Will Weaver got together for a catch up at the Milwaukee Public Market. From there, Buford's curiosity for a possible NBL opportunity was piqued.
"Will worked at Texas when my brother played there. We kind of worked in the same circles a little bit," Buford told ESPN of his relationship with Weaver.
"I was interested about his time there. Going overseas was something that always interested me, I thought it would always be Europe to be fair, but I was interested to know what he thought, how he liked it.
"I think my interest may have sparked some conversations between him and Chris (Pongrass). I wasn't aware the Kings were moving on from Fordey, I was oblivious just trying to focus on (Milwaukee's) playoff run. Chris called me sometime during the Miami series and it went well. I got permission to interview, and it went from there."
Approaching Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks organisation about interviewing elsewhere during the middle of a Championship run wasn't an entirely stress free exercise for Buford, though, as is so often the case, timing was everything.
"They've all been so supportive. I was really happy when we swept the Heat because it came between Game 3 and 4 and I kind of had to talk about it quickly and I didn't want them to catch wind of it and I didn't want to put it on their plate in the middle of a playoff run so the timing worked out okay," Buford said with a laugh.
"All the coaches were super supportive and encouraging and it was really fun going through the process."
Impressing during the interview stage, Buford admitted his head was spinning at times. Particularly when he sensed he may be in line to be offered the role right as Milwaukee fell behind 2-0 and then 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets.
"When we were down my mind was all over the place. Sure enough, we were able to turn it around and next thing you know we are favourites to go to the Finals."
Accepting the job in the early stages of the Eastern Conference Finals, an exhausting process of remaining locked into to his duties in Milwaukee while simultaneously engaging in NBL Free Agency discussion on the opposite side of the world tipped off.
"That first week in Atlanta it was free agency in the NBL, so I was making calls trying to work my magic. It was a blur, it was crazy. A lot of late-night phones called with Pongrass and Andrew Bogut, whoever. I was burning the candle at both ends but it's worth it when you win."
In a continuation of the whirlwind process, the Bucks would win the title in six games, giving Buford a window of just a few days to celebrate, pack, and prepare for a flight to Sydney. Of course, nothing in this process would be conventional, with a travel exemption finally secured only for a positive COVID test to send plans once again into a spin.
"I had a flight that was supposed to leave in 24 hours. I just got my visa and travel exemption all done. Hopefully I can get out there in the next couple of weeks, I'm just playing the waiting game.
"I'm feeling better now, I'll be honest it kicked my ass for a couple days. This thing is no joke," said Buford.
Despite the chaos, Buford's excitement to get to work in Sydney is clear, as the Kings look to reclaim their spot in the NBL Finals in 2022.
"It's funny, getting COVID presented me with the first chance to sit down and get what I need to do done and not wing it. I watched quite a bit of film on some of the players through the interview process and things like that but really diving in now on certain projects and watching guys.
"I was really excited from what I watched last year. Their young core is a good group of players. I'm excited to get down there and coach them, hopefully we can get DJ healthy. Jordy, Xav, Brucey, all those guys. I know Xav has been hurt, but if you watch any Herd games when I coached, we need versatile guys who will play five out, pass, shoot and dribble and he can do all of those things so I'm really excited about it."
A highly regarded coach with the Bucks franchise, Buford led the Herd to the league's best record during 2019-20 until the pandemic robbed the team of an opportunity to win a title. With the G League and NBL often compared as top tier feeder leagues for the NBA, Buford is ready to get to work in Sydney, mixing a blend of styles from both competitions.
"When talking to Will he mentioned the talent is very comparable in a lot of ways and I won't feel a loss there. I think the G League is probably the fastest league in the world.
"Maybe I'm wrong but it can get pretty hectic up and down where I think it's probably a little more controlled in the NBL. I'm excited to see how much we can speed up the game a little bit and see what happens."
"I wish I was on a plane tomorrow so I could be on the same time zone as everyone else."