I have to admit, my initial reaction to news that Scott Skiles was a leading candidate for the Bucks head coaching job was to wonder whether Skiles would be much of an improvement over Larry Krystkowiak.
I didn’t think so, mainly because there’s really no excuse for the Bulls lousy season, given that there was more talent in Chicago than anywhere in the Eastern Conference outside of Boston and Detroit. It wasn’t clear to me what went so wrong for a team that had won 49 games last season and swept Shaq out of the playoffs. It seemed like he quit on the team as much as they quit on him.
Besides, Skiles seemed like second or third choice for every team in the market for a new coach. The better coaches, Larry Brown and Jeff Van Gundy were not options for John Hammond, and it was going to be tough competing with Chicago for the number one choice for most, Rick Carlisle. As it turned out, Skiles was the number one choice all along, and Bucks fans should be glad Hammond moved quickly and snapped up the best NBA coach available — there weren’t many options out there.
True, Carlisle has won more, and managed to win 44 games in Indiana in 2004-05, the season of the Palace brawl (an incident that will stick with Carlisle everywhere he goes) but his success hasn’t been that much greater than Skiles’, whose Baby Bulls were fun to watch, even this season (not so much for Bulls fans). And the Detroit organization didn’t miss Carlisle much after Joe Dumars (and Hammond) fired him in 2003.
And then I did some research on Skiles and found this, one of the most hilarious stories about the NBA I’ve read in a long time. Would you believe Scott Skiles vs. Shaquille O’Neil during a 1994 Orlando Magic practice? Even better, the fight story as told to ESPN writer Chris Sheridan, is narrated by Larry Krystkowiak, the guy who had the balls to go after Shaq in the first place.
Here’s Krystkowiak’s verdict:
“I always looked as those two as two boxers, one a super heavyweight, the other a featherweight, both just ultracompetitive. They were packaged in two different boxes, but each had a significant aspect on our team,” Krystkowiak said.
And that, Bucks fans, is everything we need to know about the sort of scrappy trouble Scott Skiles brings to the Milwaukee Bucks.