Scott Skiles will return to coach the Milwaukee Bucks next season.
Skiles told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday that he would be back as the team’s coach. His agent, Keith Glass, confirmed the decision in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Glass said Skiles would not necessarily receive an extension before next season. Skiles has a year left on his contract, which was extended in 2010.
Bucks officials did not immediately confirm the decision.
Skiles is 146-166 in four seasons with the Bucks. He led Milwaukee to a 46-win season and made the playoffs in 2009-2010, where the Bucks lost to the Atlanta Hawks. They have missed the postseason two straight seasons since then.
The 2011-12 Bucks didn’t really fit Skiles’ typical hardnosed, defense-first approach to the game. They averaged 99 points per game this season, fifth-most in the league. An impressive passing team when they were at their best, the Bucks averaged 23.5 assists per game – third-best in the league.
But they gave up 98.7 points per game, putting them in the lower third of the NBA. And they were outrebounded by an average of 2.24 per game, the fifth-worst margin in the league.
Certainly, the Bucks’ defensive and rebounding stats were hurt by the absence of Andrew Bogut, who spent much of the season struggling with more of the injury problems that have dogged his career.
During his four seasons in Milwaukee, Skiles never had Bogut – the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft – healthy for a full season. Then Bogut was traded to Golden State in a deal that sent gifted scorer Monta Ellis to Milwaukee. Skiles scrambled to fit Ellis and defensive-minded forward Ekpe Udoh into the team with a little more than a month left in the season.
Speaking to reporters the day after the Bucks lost their regular-season finale at Boston, Skiles sidestepped a question about whether he wanted to be back next season.
”I have a contract with the team,” Skiles said at the time. ”This is not a great time, probably, to ask or answer that question. It’s a disappointing season. I’m as responsible as anyone, probably more so, for the results of this season. I realize that. I would never run from something like that. I think I deserve, though, a few days to decompress before I get into detail about it.”
A full season of Ellis and Brandon Jennings playing together has the makings of an explosive backcourt.
But on a team without a true superstar, Skiles said last week that every returning player had to improve over the summer to improve the Bucks’ outlook.
”Without the one guy that can carry you and covers up all other weakness, we need everybody,” Skiles said. ”We’re dependent on everybody getting better this summer. Everybody coming back with the right mindset and the understanding that if we don’t guard, we’re not going to be as good as we can be and things like that. If we can do that and stay healthy, we’ll have a pretty good year next year.”
Despite a rough beginning to the season that included a 0-8 start on the road and an air of ongoing tension between Skiles and Stephen Jackson – which finally ended when Jackson was included in the trade with the Warriors, who subsequently sent him to San Antonio – the Bucks were beginning to play well just before the Bogut trade. Then they went on a run, winning four straight at the beginning of April to run their record to .500 and making the playoffs look like a realistic possibility.
But the Bucks lost five of their last seven to miss the playoffs.
Going into next season, the Bucks could use a big man who can consistently guard the rim.
”I think being undersized really had a lot to do with it,” Jennings said in the final week of the season. ”Not to say that our big men weren’t doing the best job that they could, they were. It’s just that we didn’t have that true center like Bogut.”
Jennings has developed his game under Skiles and has been supportive of his coach. But with the season slipping away last week, Jennings acknowledged his frustration at falling just short of the playoffs for the second season in a row.
”We’re right there, but we weren’t able to capitalize on it,” Jennings said. ”So it’s not like we’re way at the bottom or anything, we’re always like ninth or 10th. It’s always like one or two games out. That’s the most frustrating part.”