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Skiles truly making a difference with Bucks

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Michael Hunt
February 2, 2009

What is the value of coaching?


When smartly applied, which sports benefit most?


Most would agree that football is influenced to a higher degree by insightful coaching. It is far less individualistic than baseball. Unlike basketball, football games typically cannot be determined by a couple of great players. Schemes matter.


Accordingly, we will find out soon enough about the value of the 3-4 and Dom Capers’ skills in adapting the Packers’ available talent into a scheme instead of the other way around. Certainly, we will find out much more about Mike McCarthy’s ability to lead.


Even sooner, we will learn if a change in personality, from the high-strung Ned Yost to the calmer Ken Macha, will make any difference in a Brewers team that is about to go to spring training with only five starting pitchers and serious questions at second, third and in right.


But at this moment, we’re learning a whole lot about Scott Skiles and the real worth of NBA coaching.


Many wrongly dismiss the impact coaching has on pro basketball. George Karl used to say it was more about ego management and babysitting, which is true to a degree. But Karl also liked to say that an NBA coach makes more decisions in a quarter than a college coach makes in an entire game.


Part of that was self-aggrandizement, but part of it is true. Managing an NBA game is incredibly challenging. And then there’s the part about managing NBA players.


A couple of Chicago radio talkers were mentioning this the other day in a conversation about Skiles, whose previous gig was with the Bulls. They were repeating the oft-told tale about Skiles’ firing on Christmas Eve of ’07, when Skiles supposedly went to the Chicago general manager to say he could no longer manage the unmanageable collection of personalities that John Paxson had assembled.


Based on the evaluation that the Bulls’ talent is better than what the Bucks are currently putting on the floor, the radio guys’ conclusion was that Chicago got rid of the wrong person.


So far, it has been the Bucks’ undeniable gain. That they are 2-2 since Michael Redd was lost for the season and in the playoff picture tells a whole lot about the value of coaching. It also reflects well on John Hammond’s decision to hire, and Herb Kohl’s willingness to pay, one of the difference-making NBA coaches in a time when the Bucks need Skiles the most.


How long the Bucks can sustain it is another question. No one is naive enough to believe that you don’t win in the NBA without players, so Andrew Bogut’s regular attendance is mandatory. But it’s hard to bet against Skiles keeping it together at a pace that would allow the Bucks to maintain their position in the standings.


All things considered, the Bucks’ chemistry is remarkably good. Certainly, there have been sporadic lapses, and it has been refreshing to hear Skiles candidly admit to them. There will be problems inherent to the situation, but anyone who dismisses the Bucks on such grounds is completely uninformed of the dynamics in the NBA. Sound coaching rights it before it becomes unmanageable.


Certainly, Skiles has had problems elsewhere. At some point in the future, he’ll probably have problems here. That’s the NBA. But at this moment, unless Gregg Popovich or Jerry Sloan were suddenly available, there is no one you’d want managing the Bucks’ tenuous situation than the intense guy sitting at the head of their bench.



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