Letting loose at a downtown Indianapolis nightspot after a long day at the NFC scouting combine in March, Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur found himself in a conversation about what was next on his offseason schedule.
Free agency was quickly approaching. Offseason workouts were scheduled to begin in a little more than a month, and shortly after that was the NFL draft.
In the midst of all that, LaFleur mentioned something else: He was going on a road trip with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
When it was suggested that it would be fun, LaFleur quickly clarified: “Actually, it’s a business trip.”
LaFleur is a coach who — despite winning 13 games in each of his first three NFL seasons, the most in NFL history in the first three years of a coaching career — has not won a Super Bowl, or even been to one. If he could find any little edge, he would do it — even if it meant going on the road with a team from an entire differently sport.
“I think he had a good time and enjoyed himself,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said. “But there’s no question this was a professional development opportunity.”
‘Are you serious?’
The backstory to the trip was this: A month earlier, LaFleur and his wife, Bre, were at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend a fundraiser for Childhelp, an organization run by a friend of LaFleur’s that helps abused and at-risk kids, and who did he bump into but Bucks star Khris Middleton.
“I had been around those guys a little bit, and I just introduced myself, and I’m like, ‘What are you guys doing here?’” LaFleur said.
It turned out, the Bucks stayed there while they were in town to play the Phoenix Suns. LaFleur then texted Horst, whom he had been introduced to by a mutual friend shortly after he got the Packers job in 2019, and they met up in the hotel bar.
It quickly turned into an evening of talking shop with Horst and his staff along with coach Mike Budenholzer and assistant coaches Darvin Ham (who would get hired as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach shortly thereafter) and Charles Lee.
“We were just kind of like chopping up with Jon and some of those guys, talking philosophy, and he threw it out there,” LaFleur said. “He’s like, ‘Hey, you should come on a road trip with us.’ And I said, ‘Are you serious? I’d love to, just to see how they operate. So that’s kinda how it started, just a random chance. We talked…