From Comcast SportsNetHead coach Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks have decided to part ways after just over four seasons together, ending a working relationship that seemed to have been teetering on the brink for quite some time.The decision came Monday night, a person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press, two days after the Bucks lost their fourth straight game to fall to 16-16 on the season. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced. USA Today first reported the parting.Skiles was 162-182 and in his fifth season with Milwaukee. He led the Bucks to one playoff appearance, a first-round loss to Atlanta in seven 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 seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. But the hard-nosed, defensive-minded coach sometimes 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 on Saturday night.This season the Bucks started out a surprising 6-2, only to lose seven of their next nine. They 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."The real challenge is we've had a couple of years in a row where ... we didn't buy into our defensive system," Skiles said before the season began. "If we do that, we'll be a good defensive team. If we don't, we won't. That's 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 three games behind Indiana in the Central Division despite injuries to Beno Udrih and top defender Luc Mbah A Moute.Skiles helped coax a breakout season from 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 forwardcenter 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' 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 down the court and lure opposing teams into shootouts to help compensate for their lack of size on the defensive end.Skiles always thought the key 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.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.Skiles' exit in Milwaukee follows a similar path as his other head coaching stints. He lasted about two and a half seasons in Phoenix and was out 25 games into his fifth season with the Chicago Bulls in 2007-08, with his stern approach usually providing a big boost early in his tenure before wearing on the players later in his stay. Skiles was in the final year of his contract with the Bucks, who play Phoenix on Tuesday and Chicago on Wednesday.His departure could be the first in a series of big shake-ups for the Bucks. General manager John Hammond is in the final year of his deal, while Jennings and Ellis can both become restricted free agents after this season.Multiple reports said assistant Jim Boylan would fill in for Skiles on an interim basis.
On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Rick Telander (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) to talk Bulls.
The panel breaks down the trade with Oklahoma City and question whether the team is better or worse now.
Later, the guys talk about the Blackhawks' trade for Tomas Jurco and also break down the upcoming Daytona 500. Finally, Telander discusses his five-part series chronicling the Orr High School basketball team as they excel on the court and try to survive off it.
Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below.
General manager Stan Bowman saw the potential in Tomas Jurco several years ago.
For the 24-year-old forward, it wasn’t working out with the Detroit Red Wings. Perhaps a change of scenery, an opportunity on a team that could vie for another Stanley Cup, makes a difference. The Blackhawks are about to find out.
The Blackhawks acquired Jurco for a third-round pick in this year’s draft on Friday afternoon. The 24-year-old Jurco has played in 16 games with the Red Wings this season but has yet to collect a point. In four seasons with the Wings, Jurco had 15 goals and 24 assists in 159 games. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that, “things haven’t worked out” for Jurco there and that he wanted to go elsewhere.
Jurco was on a bye as a member of the Red Wings but, now that he’s with the Blackhawks, the bye ends. Bowman was hopeful Jurco would join the Blackhawks at practice on Saturday. Also, to clear a roster spot for Jurco, the Blackhawks reassigned Vinnie Hinostroza to the Rockford IceHogs.
Bowman said he’s been watching Jurco for a few seasons now.
“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” Bowman said. “He’s been an accomplished player at a lot of different levels. He’s shown flashes in the NHL, not as consistently as he or the Wings would like, but you can see the talent and potential. You have to have some patience with these guys. It doesn’t always come together right away. I’m not expecting him to carry our team but I think he can contribute.”
It was an under-the-radar trade for Bowman but that’s not surprising. In late January, Bowman said he probably wouldn’t do much at the trade deadline; he liked how the Blackhawks’ young players were progressing and figured, if that continued, the team would be in good shape. Since then the Blackhawks have won eight of their last nine and are just three points behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. As the Blackhawks kept winning it looked like, if they did anything, it would be a depth move.
So will there be any more moves? At this point it doesn’t seem likely, be it on forward or defense – Bowman didn’t have an update on Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) but said he’s happy with the depth in Chicago and Rockford on defense. Bowman said he’ll keep talking but, “but it’s a little bit different than in previous years when I thought we definitely needed something and were lacking in an area.”
“I’ve had a feeling about our team, not just recently but even a month ago. I liked the way this group was starting to come together,” Bowman said. “We’ve seen that enhanced over the last couple of week here. We’ve seen players step up, [Nick] Schmaltz in particular. [Ryan] Hartman’s been good all year. We’ve seen Jonathan [Toews] become a dominant player again. It gives your team a confidence that you have balance, scoring in different lines. We just added a young player to help us now as well as in the future. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m not expecting more trades. I can’t predict more will happen but I have a good feeling about this group right now.”