Year after year, Skiles coaches teams that play hard as he tries to get the most out of his roster. That often times leads to a lot of confusing rotation changes, but Skiles is competitive and does what he thinks will get a win, and his style has led to undeniable success.
In 13 years as a head coach, Skiles has won more than half of his games, and his winning percentage is 14th amongst active coaches, most of whom have had superstar players to build around.
I don't think Skiles is necessarily an elite coach at the level of a Phil Jackson, but some coaches who rank higher than him—such as the Los Angeles Clippers' Vinny Del Negro and Oklahoma City Thunder's Scott Brooks—are only there because they've had elite talent.
Skiles hasn't had this luxury for most of his career. NBA Hall of Fame writer Sam Smith once wrote in a mailbag on Bulls.com that had Skiles had a player like Derrick Rose, he would have had success like Tom Thibodeau.
If you look at some of the teams Skiles has coached, his work has been impressive. He won well over 60 percent of his games in his first two seasons as coach of the Phoenix Suns until they traded Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury. This move reversed the fortunes for both the Suns and the New Jersey Nets, which went to two straight NBA Finals with Kidd.
In 2003, Skiles took over an awful Bulls team 16 games into the season. He struggled, but the team still won 19 games after winning just 23 the year before he arrived.
After just one full offseason, Skiles led the Bulls to three straight playoff appearances—their first since Michael Jordan retired following the 1998 season. In 2007—with Luol Deng as his best player—his team swept the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
The Bulls struggled with injuries and age the following year, and Skiles asked to be relieved of his duties because he thought the team needed a new voice.
In his time with the Bucks, Skiles has never had a player selected to the All-Star team, but his Bucks have been in contention for the playoffs.
The current Bucks team has a misfit roster led by two undersized, shot-happy guards. Their frontcourt is full of long, athletic players, but they're all similar and are extremely limited offensively. The rest of their roster is made up of one-dimensional players—it's taken some good coaching just to keep them afloat.
If the Bucks really feel the need to make a change, they should start with their backcourt. Both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings average more than 15 shots per game, and neither player shoots above 41 percent. Part of the problem is the duo combines to take nearly nine three-pointers per game—Jennings is around 35 percent, and Ellis is at an abysmal 26 percent from beyond the arc.
The next question for those who want to replace Skiles is: Who should replace him?
Coaches like Phil Jackson and Larry Brown aren't going to Milwaukee for numerous reasons. The next-level available guys such as Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Brown and Nate McMillan likely aren't either.
Flip Saunders has Wisconsin connections and is from the Midwest, but is there any evidence he is better than Skiles? His success came with Kevin Garnett in Minnesota and then with a Detroit Pistons team that had already won a championship. He won less than 30 percent of his games in Washington.
Granted he didn't have great talent there, but you could argue the talent was at least close to what the Bucks have now.
The Bucks aren't winning the championship, but they're still in line to make the playoffs. They have a better record than the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, two more experienced and arguably more talented teams. The Bucks aren't far off from the division lead either. Not much more could be expected from this roster.
The best way to win in the NBA is with a superstar player, and the Bucks don't have anyone who is anywhere near that level. The coach is the easiest guy to blame, but in the Bucks' case, he might be the best thing they have going for them.
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