Boylan takes over for Skiles in Milwaukee: Ilyasova back in starting lineup
In a somewhat-surprising move, the Milwaukee Bucks and head coach Scott Skiles decided to “part ways” late Monday night. While Skiles and GM John Hammond both denied a Yahoo! report alleging that the coach of four-plus years “hated his team,” clearly some tension had been building between the two sides for quite some time. It was widely assumed that the starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings (who took to Twitter shortly after the news broke to thank his only NBA coach) and Monta Ellis frustrated the efficiency-focused Skiles with their sporadic and inconsistent play, and rumors surfaced that Skiles and Hammond did not see eye-to-eye on some of the team’s recent roster moves. The breakup was short and sweet, with Skiles and the Bucks organization both appearing to be content with the decision.
And just like that, the Scott Skiles era is over in Milwaukee. The Bucks have turned the reins over to veteran head assistant Jim Boylan for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. The 57-year-old served as Skiles’ head assistant since taking over the Bucks’ job in 2008 and has memorable ties to the city, starting at point guard for Marquette’s 1977 national championship squad. This is not Boylan’s first head coaching gig, as he (ironically enough) stepped in for Skiles when he was fired by Chicago 25 games into the 2007-08 season. Boylan went 24-32 as the Bulls’ head coach and was dismissed at season’s end.
In many ways, Chicago’s 2007-08 roster was quite similar to Milwaukee’s current group, particularly in the frontcourt. The team was – much like Milwaukee – very, very average. Lacking a true superstar (unless we’re counting Larry Hughes), Boylan utilized a deep bench with eleven players averaging at least 20 minutes per game. They finished near the middle of the pack in both scoring (18th) and scoring defense (16th) and never had a winning or losing streak of more than three games. Boylan played a declining Ben Wallace, current Buck/cheerleader Drew Gooden, Joe Smith, Tyrus Thomas and a young Joakim Noah in a five-man frontcourt rotation that will likely mirror his plans for Milwaukee’s flexible group. While the Bucks’ big men (Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova, Sanders, Dunleavy, Udoh and (possibly) Dalembert) are more versatile and athletic than Boylan had in Chicago, none command extensive minutes on a nightly basis and each are prone to foul trouble.
In an interview with Bucks.com Tuesday, Boylan spoke optimistically about the team’s future, reiterating his affection for the roster and emphasizing what he learned from his previous stint with Chicago. Boylan was adamant that mercurial forward Ersan Ilyasova would play a more prominent role with the team going forward. After a breakout second half in 2011-12, the 25-year-old Turkey native signed a five year, $40 million deal and was expected to provide much-needed scoring and rebounding for Milwaukee. However, after a slow start to the season, (35% FG in November), Ilyasova appeared to have landed in Skiles’ proverbial “doghouse” and soon found himself coming off the bench and struggling to justify his new contract. Having started less than half of the team’s games, the soft-spoken forward’s confidence was clearly lacking. The change at the helm is likely to benefit Ilyasova more than anyone on the Bucks’ roster. Given Boylan’s forthright confidence in the fifth-year man, his minutes and role within the offense will likely increase.
Since the coaching change, Milwaukee has appeared revitalized in two victories over Phoenix and Chicago. Given Skiles’ business-like, stern disposition, Boylan’s more relaxed attitude certainly has to be refreshing for a Bucks team much maligned for their poor offensive efficiency (27th overall). Ilyasova has been solid, but Brandon Jennings has stepped up with two of his best games of the season on back-to-back nights, including a 35-6-6 performance in Wednesday’s 104-96 win over the Bulls – his most complete line in quite some time. Meanwhile, Monta Ellis continues to struggle from the field, but if he can regain his touch from outside the paint, this Bucks team (18-16 overall) could be playoff bound in the top-heavy East for the first time since the 2009-10 season.