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Ball Don't Lie

Add Beno Udrih to the list of players that have had issues with Scott Skiles’ coaching

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Beno Udrih and Scott Skiles in 2012 (Getty Images)

Beno Udrih complaining about Scott Skiles and his time with the Milwaukee Bucks as Udrih works as a new member of the Orlando Magic? This isn’t the stuff that online advertisers dream about. This isn’t a real clickable column, and there won’t be thousands of comments on the bottom of this page by the weekend. Udrih is an often overlooked player complaining about a since-removed coach and talking up the distinction between two of the smaller market teams in the NBA.

Udrih’s complaints, though, have us wondering whether or not Skiles is right for this league, as the former Bucks coach licks his wounds following a rough end in Milwaukee. It’s true that NBA GMs won’t fret over the hurt feelings of someone like Beno Udrih as they consider Skiles for a potential top gig in the future, but this is just one aspect in a reeling career that hasn’t ended well in three NBA stops. Why sign up to be the fourth?

First, Udrih’s frustrations, as documented by Josh Robbins at the Orlando Sentinel:

"I've been here three days, and I've already felt more at home than I did in Milwaukee for a year and a half," Udrih said Monday.

"It was just a bad situation there. I'm a professional and I'm a man, so I like to be told straight-up what they expect from me. So, in Milwaukee, that never happened. They were saying, 'Yeah, yeah, we know. We've got to play you a little bit more.' But it never happened. So when I did get into the game I didn't know what they actually wanted to do, so I was just trying to find it myself, and I never did."

The take from this is that Scott Skiles did not ably communicate with his player as to his expectations in terms of role and placement in the rotation. This is a problem you heard about in Skiles’ earlier turns in Phoenix and Chicago, and it’s not insignificant when paired with his clashes (or, to put it in nicer terms, “chilly relationships”) with his players.

And who are these players? Tyrus Thomas. Eddy Curry. Beno Udrih. Jason Kidd and Brandon Jennings at times, among other lesser lights.

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What’s the big deal about ticking off Thomas and Curry? Classic underachievers who never seemed to care about the game long enough to do what they needed in order to become better players? Jennings still takes terrible shots, Kidd was a bit of a prat during his time in Phoenix, and who cares about Beno Udrih?

This isn’t the point. Skiles was hired by middling teams to push them over the top. He’s only made the second round twice as a coach, though, getting there in 2000 as his Phoenix Suns flew past a San Antonio Spurs team working without an injured Tim Duncan in the first round, and in 2007 with a very good Chicago Bulls squad.

That Bulls team flamed out during 2007-08, though, attempting to play through an obvious crisis of confidence that Skiles seemed ill-equipped to handle. He was fired just 25 games into the following season. His second year with the Suns saw the Kidd-led group win 51 games but die out in the first round, and he was let go 51 games into the following year.

He, and his teams, burn out. Without getting very far in the first place, due to various influences, and after a whole lot of squabbling.

The same pattern seems to show up for every team. The hard-working players you expect to play on the edge – Luc Mbah a Moute, Andres Nocioni, Shawn Marion or Bo Outlaw – always seem to go all out. Still, even awful coaches can make hard workers out of those whose motor seems permanently stuck at ten thousand revs.

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Skiles did not enjoy his roster in Milwaukee (Getty Images)

It’s the high potential players that Skiles has failed with. Witness Brandon Jennings’ stagnation since his rookie year. Look at the way Thomas, who worked his tail off during his rookie and second season only to be jerked in and out of the rotation and contests, seemed to give up on the game by his third year. Look at Chandler, who needed to get out of Chicago to stop looking over his shoulder and finally flourish.

And look at how it ended in Milwaukee, with Skiles basically daring the Bucks to either fire him in 2012, or give him a buyout. Even with a hard working team that was on a playoff pace in 2012-13, Skiles relived his final year in Chicago all over again – agreeing to part ways, watching as Jim Boylan works up a Skiles-lite finish to the season.

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Scott Skiles has a deep and legitimate understanding of the pro game. To slough him off as some NCAA-type that only comes to the pros for the money and nicer hotels is not fair – he wants to coach men, and his profound abilities as a coach deserve to be in the NBA. At his best, he squeezes some fantastic performances from players working to the hilt. The question is, after watching teams in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee that were loaded with players working to that capacity no matter the head coach, how much of that all-out play was a result of Skiles’ work?

I understand how this comes off. Without saying it, I’m questioning whether or not a man deserves another job, and another chance. No matter the compensation at the previous jobs, you better come to that conclusion after careful thinking, with understanding and empathy for the person – the human – you’re attempting to consider.

Scott Skiles has nearly 900 career NBA games as a coach and three different teams, and exits, under his belt. Sometime in the summer, or more likely midseason next year when his Bucks contract runs out and the first batch of coach firings hit, Skiles’ name will be brought up for yet another gig.

Go ahead and consider him, NBA teams, because the man knows the game. He’s earned that consideration both due to his raw talent, and the better parts of his history. All we ask from Skiles is that, three teams in, he gives his own approach a careful re-considering in his months away from the NBA.

After all, you can’t afford to keep losing the faith of superstars like Tyrus Thomas, and Beno Udrih.

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