MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks and head coach Scott Skiles have mutually agreed to part ways immediately, the team officially announced Tuesday morning, with assistant coach Jim Boylan taking over for the rest of the season.
Skiles was in his fifth season with the Bucks and in the final year of his contract. The team started out 16-12 but has lost its past four games since blowing out Miami 104-85 on Dec. 29 for its most impressive win of the season. Hired prior to the 2008-09 season, the 48-year-old Skiles finished his tenure with the Bucks with an overall record of 162-182.
Bucks general manager John Hammond met with Skiles late in the afternoon Monday at the team’s Cousins Center practice facility. The decision was reached mutually after a “calm” discussion that was not originally scheduled. Hammond said he did not expect to part ways with Skiles when he arrived at work in the morning.
“We both kind of agreed that if something like this were to happen, the time is probably now,” Hammond said Tuesday morning. “We’re not buried 10 games under .500; we still have 50 games left. I think it is an opportunity to move forward.
“Our goals haven’t changed. We still expect to have a good season. We still expect to be a playoff team and we still expect to win.”
No contract extension was ever discussed with Skiles, but Hammond did say that a recent NBA.com report that Skiles did not want to coach the team after this season was not news to him.
“That’s his right and that’s his prerogative to make a decision like that after five years with an organization,” Hammond said.
Hammond also dismissed multiple internet reports that he had a frosty relationship with Skiles and that the coach didn’t like his team. There was a concern, however, that Skiles’ voice could be lost in the locker room as the season wore on.
“We can start talking in clichés if we want and say the team is not hearing the voice or the message isn’t getting across,” Hammond said. “We can surmise things like that. In this case, I’d also like to say I enjoyed my time with Scott. Scott is a very good coach, and he did an excellent job for us.”
Skiles led the Bucks to a 46-36 record and a trip to the playoffs in 2009-10. The Bucks finished the season 26-11 before falling to third-seeded Atlanta in seven games. He was originally signed to a four-year contract, but the Bucks added a year after the playoff appearance. Unable to duplicate the success, Milwaukee went 35-47 and 31-35 in the next two seasons under Skiles and missed the playoffs in both years. The Bucks didn’t give Skiles a contract extension prior to this season, and he was coaching with an uncertain future.
“John and I met and mutually agreed that a coaching change would be in the best interest of both parties,” Skiles said in a statement.
“The Senator (owner Herb Kohl), the people of Wisconsin, and especially those in the Bucks organization have been very kind to me, my wife, and family. I am truly grateful for our time here. We are leaving with many fond memories.
“I believe this team can and will have success in the next 50 games and postseason. I want to thank the players for all of their hard work. I wish them all the best.”
Milwaukee’s current season has been a rollercoaster. The Bucks started 6-2 but then lost seven of nine games to fall to 9-9. Then came a 7-3 stretch to move to four games over .500, but the four-game losing streak followed, and Skiles’ trademark frequent lineup and rotation changes have seemed to have less and less of a positive effect.
Part of Milwaukee’s quick start included winning five of its first six games against Central Division teams. That stretch helped put the Bucks in the division lead, but they’ve now lost three in a row to division foes. The Bucks are 14-8 against the Eastern Conference but just 2-8 against the West.
Hammond said the team’s inconsistency did not factor into the decision to part ways with Skiles he instead attributed it to the ebbs and flows of an NBA season.
When news of Skiles’ departure broke Monday night, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings took to Twitter to voice his thoughts on the only NBA coach he’s ever played for.
“Coach skiles love the way he Approached the game. Believed in me since I was a rookie, gave me the rock since day one. Thanks for everything,” Jennings tweeted.
Skiles previously coached at Phoenix and Chicago before arriving in Milwaukee. He was fired in the middle of his third season with the Suns and in the middle of his fifth season with the Bulls. When he was fired in 2008 by the Bulls, Boylan, 57, took over as interim coach and led the team to a 24-32 record the rest of the way.
The starting point guard on Marquette University’s 1977 national championship team, Boylan has been on Skiles’ coaching staff in each of his three NBA stops. Boylan began his coaching career in Switzerland before joining Jud Heathcote’s staff at Michigan State in 1986.
From there, Boylan became the head coach at New Hampshire before entering the NBA as Cleveland’s video coordinator in 1992. His first NBA assistant coaching job came with Vancouver in 1997.
His first game as Milwaukee’s head coach will come Tuesday when the Bucks host Phoenix.
“We are excited about the opportunity for Jim Boylan,” Hammond said. “We think Jim is going to do a very good job for us. He is not interim coach, he is going to coach this team for the rest of this season. We expect him to do very well.”
Boylan’s previous experience taking over in the middle of the season was what led to his insertion as coach. Hammond expects Boylan to bring energy and passion and instill a desire in the players to win.
“Experience is a wonderful teacher,” Hammond said. “He’s had the experience. He knows what he’s walking in to. He’s done it before. Most of the time when people get a second opportunity they learn from the first opportunity and they are better at it.”
Hammond said Boylan will be considered for the position after this season, but that will depend on how things play out the rest of the season.
Bucks advance scout Chris Gilmartin is expected to join the coaching staff to fill Boylan’s old spot on the bench.