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posted: 4/5/2010 12:01 AM

Bucks should not forget importance of their coach

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When the Milwaukee Bucks visit the United Center on Tuesday, it will be tough to think about anything besides Andrew Bogut's elbow-buckling crash to the court against Phoenix.

The former No. 1 overall pick is expected to miss the rest of the season with a hyperextended elbow, sprained wrist and broken right hand. Bogut had averaged 21.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in three games against the Bulls.

But this also is a good time to appreciate the coaching job Scott Skiles has done in Milwaukee.

This is basically a replay of what he did in 2004-05 with the Bulls - turned a team with no expectations into a successful defensive machine.

The 2004-05 Bulls started 0-9, then rallied to record 47 wins. The Bucks, picked to finish last in the East by Sports Illustrated, turned it into high gear after acquiring John Salmons from the Bulls on Feb. 18. They'll clinch a playoff berth if they can win Tuesday.

Looking back on the Skiles era in Chicago, it does come with a warning. Through no fault of his own, Skiles left a troublesome residue that has hampered the team since he left.

After Skiles created overachieving results, the players appeared better than they actually were. All the key players on the 2004-05 Bulls ended up getting an inflated contract - sometimes from other teams - that seems regrettable in hindsight.

Just go down the list: Eddy Curry, yes. Tyson Chandler, yes. Kirk Hinrich, yes. Andres Nocioni, yes. Luol Deng, yes. Ben Gordon, absolutely.

Most of those guys aren't bad players. The two who remain with the Bulls, Hinrich and Deng, still are valuable. But no doubt the Bulls cringe every time they think about Deng being owed $14 million in the 2013-14 season.

So the Bucks might want to proceed with caution. They have Bogut locked up long term but will need to do something with Luke Ridnour, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Brandon Jennings down the road.

It's funny that one reason the Bulls traded Salmons was they didn't think he would opt out of the final year of his contract. Now after hooking up with Skiles, Salmons probably is a lock to opt out and seek a longer deal from the Bucks.

Skiles' tenure with the Bulls was hampered somewhat by the decision to sign Ben Wallace as a free agent. The Bulls always knew the players eventually would tune out the coach, and that day arrived sooner than expected.

But if there was ever a case when it would have made sense to keep the coach and lose all the players, this might have been it. Had the Bulls known they would luck into Derrick Rose less than a year after Skiles was fired, they might have tried it.

Skiles is one of the elite NBA coaches who can make any team better (with very few exceptions). My list would include Skiles, Charlotte's Larry Brown, Denver's George Karl, Utah's Jerry Sloan, Houston's Rick Adelman, Dallas' Rick Carlisle and Portland's Nate McMillan.

It seems as though Sloan has been with the Jazz forever, but he did lead the 1981 Bulls into the playoffs.

Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich belong in their own category, because they've always been attached to one of the league's all-time great stars.

The first group of coaches has something in common. They were all borderline NBA or ABA players who probably stuck around longer than their talent warranted. This season's likely coach of the year, Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks, also fits that mold.

None of them became a head coach without any previous experience. So if the Bulls make a change on the bench this summer, they probably had the right idea in 2008 by going with an overachieving former player in Vinny Del Negro. Next time they'll likely make previous coaching experience mandatory.

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