The future was looking pretty bright for the Milwaukee Bucks in the spring of 2010, as the club far exceeded expectations by making the NBA Playoffs for the first time in seven years with a regular season record of 46-36. Milwaukee General Manager John Hammond was receiving praise from all corners of the Association and bench boss Scott Skiles, was a viable candidate for NBA Coach Of The Year, but lost the award to Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks. The Bucks stay in the Post Season would not be long, as they were knocked out of the first round by the Chicago Bulls, however it appeared that the team was finally on the right track, after years of being stalled at the Station House.
Appearances can be deceiving and they were in the case of the team from Milwaukee, as they missed the Post Season last year, finishing the campaign with a record of 35-47. They enter their contest against the New York Knicks Friday night with a 15-24 mark, trailing New York by three games for the final Playoff slot in the Eastern Conference. Barring a total collapse by the Knicks, or a sudden surge by their squad, most likely they will be watching the Post Season at home once again this year.
Skiles reportedly is having his issues with some players on his roster this season, as Stephen Jackson and he barely communicate and center Andrew Bogut is rumored not to be his coach’s biggest fan. This is not the first time he has had these problems; similar situations occurred with the Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls, that helped lead to his dismissal by both franchises.
Will the same fate befall Skiles at the end of this season if the team fails to make the Playoffs? Will Hammond and Team Owner Senator Herb Kohl decide to go in another direction? Whether the hand writing is already on the wall; or it is just perception, Skiles could find himself out the door after four seasons of being the Bucks bench boss at the end of the campaign.
Skiles was a hard-nosed, gritty, scrappy player during his ten seasons playing in the Association; the kind of guy that if he was on your team, you cheered when he went into a game; but if he was on the opposing team you despised him. He spent his first year in the NBA with Milwaukee as they took him with pick number 22 in the 1986 NBA Draft. He would have his best years playing for the Orlando Magic, where he was named the NBA Most Improved Player in 1991.
Time has not mellowed the man as he still brings the same attitude and intensity to his job as coach. That “Tough-Guy” approach can shake up a franchise and give it a shot of adrenaline when that person takes the reins; however it tends to wear pretty thin after three or four years, especially during tough times. Many veterans chafe when confronted with that type of coach; hence the fallout this year with Jackson. Coaches who are hard-nosed types that have found long-term success in the Association, realize that once he instills his values in a team, it is time to ease up on the grip. Sadly, Skiles never has learned that lesson.
Skiles relationship with the Bulls ended badly, when after taking his team to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 2007, he told the team’s then General Manager John Paxson that maybe they should bring someone else in to run the team after a start of 9-16 the next season. Needless to say that the coach’s lack of faith in his own abilities, did not give the front office confidence in him and he was fired not long after.
After a tough first season with Milwaukee, Skiles looked like he finally learned his lesson, not repeating the things that had led to his demise twice before, with the success in his second year. While the Bucks are not a talent-laden team, there are some good players beginning with starting point guard Brandon Jennings, as well as some skilled veterans in Drew Gooden, Carlos Delfino, Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston; just to name a few. The club has more talent than the record indicates, which usually falls in the lap of the coach. Unless Milwaukee quickly turns things around, Skiles could take the fall this spring.