MILWAUKEE (AP) — Once again, an NBA team has parted ways with head coach Scott Skiles. Once again, veteran assistant Jim Boylan is being asked to pick up the pieces.
One day after Milwaukee and Skiles agreed it was time for a change, the Bucks said Tuesday that Boylan will coach the team for the rest of the season. General manager John Hammond downplayed the notion that Skiles had lost control of the locker room or otherwise felt friction with management.
“Scott and I did not have a frosty relationship. Scott did not hate this team,” said Hammond, who noted that more than half the season remains. “We’re not a team in dire straits ... we’re expecting good things to happen.”
Boylan was expected to meet with reporters before Tuesday night’s home game against Phoenix.
If this sounds familiar, it should: Skiles was fired as head coach in Chicago on Christmas Eve in 2007 after the Bulls started 9-16. Boylan, an assistant in Chicago, took over and went 24-32. He was fired at the end of the season.
Hammond said he and Skiles had been having a number of conversations recently about the future of the team. He said there was no single factor in Skiles’ departure, and that no other assistant coaches were leaving.
“It was a mutual decision. We both agreed to make this decision,” he said.
Skiles had a 162-182 record in four-plus seasons with Milwaukee, with one playoff appearance — a first-round loss to Atlanta in seven games during the 2009-10 season. He was a hard-nosed, defensive-minded coach who sometimes seemed to have difficulty meshing with a roster built around volume shooters Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Skiles’ agent, Keith Glass, said it was hard to pinpoint when Skiles began thinking of stepping aside, but all parties agreed the timing was right.
“There was no blowup. There was no animosity going on. I think everybody made the right decision for their own respective sides,” he said.
Two other coaches, the Lakers’ Mike Brown and Brooklyn’s Avery Johnson, are also out of work in this young season. Brown was fired after five games and Johnson late last month, about three weeks after being named Eastern Conference coach of the month.
The 57-year-old Boylan has been the lead assistant for the Bucks the past four seasons. In a 20-year NBA coaching career, he has also been an assistant in Cleveland, Vancouver, Phoenix, Atlanta and Chicago.
Milwaukee, losers of four straight when the coaching change was announced, started out a surprising 6-2, only to lose seven of its next nine. The Bucks followed that with a four-game winning streak, the kind of wild swings that didn’t sit well with a coach who values consistency — both in play and preparation.
Skiles did help coax a breakout season out of Larry Sanders, who has emerged as a rebounding and shot-blocking monster over the last few weeks. The demanding coach pushed Sanders to be more consistent, and the lanky forward/center has responded. He grabbed 20 rebounds against Boston on Dec. 21 to start a string of double-digit rebound nights in five of his last eight games and leads the league with 3.07 blocks per game.
Skiles’ 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 down the court and lure opposing teams into shootouts. 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.
Still, the Bucks are only a few games behind Indiana in the Central Division, despite injuries to Beno Udrih and top defender Luc Mbah A Moute, and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Skiles’ departure could be the first in a series of big shake-ups for the Bucks. Hammond is in the final year of his deal, while Jennings and Ellis can both become restricted free agents after this season.
Hammond said he and team owner Herb Kohl are in discussions about an extension, but he declined to elaborate on the progress of their conversations.
As for Skiles, he is now 443-433 as an NBA head coach in 12-plus seasons, which also includes stints with Chicago and Phoenix. He started this season with a host of new players, though the biggest trade during his tenure was the deal that sent former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut to Golden State for Ellis.
“I never heard Scott say a negative thing to me about that trade or anything else,” Glass said. “Everybody has their own opinions on the way things are done, but Scott was always on board with — in terms of support — whatever move was made. ... And I think he liked Monta. I never heard him say a word about that at all in a negative sense.”
Glass said it was too early to say whether Skiles was looking to stay in coaching.
“Today is not the day for that ... but I’m sure we will discuss that in the next month or so,” he said. “But he’s not burning right now.”
AP Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.