Let's keep it fairly brief about Scott Skiles today, as both the national media and blogosphere have done a fairly effective job of covering his firing by the Bulls on Monday: Simply put, his window expired.
There is no coaching style that leads to a more restrictive window of opportunity in the NBA than that of the latest man to become ex-coach of the Chicago Bulls. While every coach only has so long to get through and make it work with his players, Skiles likely has the least time of all. He is the rigid taskmaster and disciplinarian, the type of coach who isn't afraid to let his cast of NBA stars have it whenever he deems it necessary.
This can work for stretches. Particularly with young teams, as the Bulls certainly were when Skiles inherited them, the disciplinarian style adds a steadying influence and helps the team start doing the right things on and off the court to head in a positive direction overall. Credit Skiles for having exactly this effect in his early time in Chicago and for helping to be a part of building the Baby Bulls into a repeat playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
But it was inevitable that it would end like this. Because ultimately, nobody likes getting yelled at. It can work for a while as a motivational tool and as something that can be accepted as part of a particular coach's style. But after a point, the same voice yelling the same words over and over no longer resonates the way it once did. The players build up a tolerance and begin tuning out the coach. In the NBA, where the inmates largely run the asylum (the most stark contrast between the pros and the college and high school levels), there isn't a way to truly discipline these players with any efficacy. And that is largely when they stop getting better.
The best-case scenario from there is that the team simply hits a plateau. After a while though, that plateau turns into a decline if there is no welcome influence pushing a team to keep making itself better. They key then becomes removing the coach before the regression becomes steep to the point of being irreparable. This Bulls team has clearly regressed thus far, but there is still much talent and youth on this roster, and as my buddy and Chicago native Mays said recently, "There is still a good basketball team under there somewhere."
So the time had come. Scott Skiles did his job in Chicago -- playing a role in helping the Bulls return to relevance -- and John Paxson has done half of his with regard to the coaching position. He has dumped the one that needed to be removed, and now he must find the one to help the Bulls take the next step forward.
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