Head coach Scott Skiles and the Bucks have made a decision to part ways after only over 4 seasons together, ending a working relationship that appeared to have once been teetering on the brink for some time.
The decision came Monday night; a person with knowledge of the move claimed, 2 days after the Bucks lost their 4th straight game to fall to 16-16 on the season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as the move has not been announced.
Skiles was 162-182 and in his 5th season with Milwaukee. He led the Bucks to one playoff appearance, a 1st-round loss to Atlanta Hawks in 7 games during the 2009-10 season.
At first glance, the timing of the move might seem curious. Even after their latest loss, the Bucks were still in 7th place in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. But the hard-nosed, defensive-minded coach frequently had difficulty meshing with a roster built around volume shooters Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, and it appeared to finally reach the breaking point after a 95-80 loss to the Pacers in Indiana.
This season the Bucks began a surprising 6-2, only to lose 7 of their next 9. They followed that with a 4-game winning streak, the kind of wild swings that didn’t sit well with a coach who values consistency — both in play and preparation.
“The real challenge is we’ve had a few years in a row where … We didn’t accept our defensive system,” Skiles said before the season started. “If we do that, we will be a good defensive team. If we don’t, we won’t. That is the real challenge, getting guys to buy in on that on the floor, give the effort, focus and concentrate as necessary to be a good defensive team.”
Despite the differences in style between the head coach and the stars on the team, the Bucks were just 3 games behind Indiana Pacers in the Central Division in spite of injuries to Beno Udrih and top defender Luc Mbah A Moute.
Skiles helped coax a breakout season from Larry Sanders, who has appeared as a rebounding and shot-blocking monster during the last few weeks. The demanding coach pushed Sanders to be more consistent, and the lanky forward/center has answered. He grabbed 20 rebounds against Boston Celtics on December 21 to start a chain of double-digit rebound nights in 5 of his last 8 games and leads the league with 3.07 blocks per game. Vegas odds
Skiles’ hard-driving style and focus on defense was always going to be tested by a roster revolving around Jennings and Ellis, two flashy scorers who prefer to get up and back down the court and lure opposing groups into shootouts to help compensate for their absence of size on the defensive end.
Skiles always thought the secret to being competitive in the East was to buckle down and value getting stops over getting buckets. Jennings and Ellis have been giving plenty of effort, but the Bucks were in the middle of the pack in points allowed per game (15th) and field goal percentage defense (18th), below Skiles’ lofty expectations.