The Orlando Magic started last season looking for progress from third-year coach Jacque Vaughn and his young team. Although they were young, they were a talented squad that some could see making it to the playoffs potentially if they were to reach their ultimate level. Unfortunately, the Magic were the same team they were last year and it seemed like no progress was made. So the organization decided to part ways with Vaughn halfway through the season. The team with so much talent just did not come together under Vaughn’s leadership. The season ended for them mercifully in April and then the search for a new coach began. There were names mentioned like former Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau as the next coach of the Magic. But for Orlando, they decided to not hire these coaches in favor of one of the franchise favorites. Scott Skiles was a hard-working player when he played in the NBA. He did not have any skills that were extraordinary, but he was a smart, heady player that left it all on the court. And he can famously be remembered for being an irritant to second-year center Shaquille O’Neal when they were in Orlando together as well as his record of 30 assists in one game in 1990. Well, Skiles will now be returning to where he had his best success as a player. Skiles was officially named the new head coach of the Orlando Magic on this past Friday. And with that, the new era of Magic basketball has begun. But how long will this era last is the question many have.
Skiles has been in the NBA a long time as a coach and has had a few stops. In Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee he helped make those teams better and he has a 51% winning percentage in the NBA as a coach. It is undeniable how much he squeezed out of those teams when many did not see the type of things he did. And with most of them, there was not much to work with. But the things that he accomplished with the teams he coached came with a price. Skiles was as demanding as a coach as he was a player. He was tough on players and sometimes overstepped his bounds as a coach. He knew tough love as a coach and some players needed that. But he never knew when to throttle it down on the sideline or at practice. The result of his propensity to continue to push his teams was him ultimately getting fired from two coaching jobs and him resigning from the Milwaukee job. The reason he was fired from two of his coaching jobs he was is because he wore on those teams. Eventually, the players tired of listening to him rant at them about things. His act wore thin and he was jettisoned. In Milwaukee, his resigning was due to him not being very fond of the ownership at the time and who can blame him? At that time ownership was very bad. But the team probably would have fired him there as well if he did not resign due to his abrasive coaching style. In the end, he is a guy that gets results but wears thin on people, including management. In the short-term, he can get some results. But in the long-term, he is not the answer for any team. He is merely a stopgap.
For Orlando, they had a chance to bring back a former player they loved, but they also had a chance to bring in someone that would make a difference in the long run. And by taking a look at Skiles and his coaching career, long-term is something that should never be attached to his name. The Magic have a ton of youth on their team and those players will need some tough love along with some encouragement along the way. Skiles has proven that he is incapable of the encouragement portion and would rather coach NBA players like he is their taskmaster. As time goes on, he will become the frustrating irritant that he was when he played with Shaq in Orlando. And that will eventually drive the Orlando players crazy. The NBA is a player’s league and very seldom do coaches win out over players. In a year or two, the Magic will go from just a young team to a team that could potentially make some noise in the East with guards Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo along with big man Nikola Vucevic. Skiles will drive them to success at first, but he will eventually become the one that drives them towards talking to management about getting rid of him. His burnout factor on his players will help usher in a coach that will benefit from what he is trying to build. Honestly, it is amazing that he continues to keep getting jobs despite everyone knowing his history on the sidelines. These young players don’t need a taskmaster like Skiles at the helm. They need a coach that can get the best out of them while knowing how to balance personalities on a team. There is a reason teams Skiles coaches take a drastic dip in his last year coaching them and it’s definitely not the players. Add Orlando to the list of teams that will tire of him eventually and jettison him.
This experiment is one that will not work for the Orlando Magic. They fired Jacque Vaughn and had a chance to bring in better coaches with more success. But instead they fumbled this coaching hire like they have fumbled this franchise for the last four years and hired a guy that has no business even being on a sideline as a head coach again. Congratulations on your head coaching job Scott Skiles. And good luck when you are fired in two or three years and have worn out your welcome.