Four seasons or so. That was Scott Skiles‘ typical shelf life as an NBA coach, the average length of his stays in Milwaukee (4.4 actually), Chicago (4.3) and Phoenix (about 2.4 spread over three years, after two as a Suns assistant coach).
The length of Skiles’ stints with those teams, as much as the way they played while he was in charge, came to define his coaching style and effectiveness. He was old school, a demanding boss who got rapid improvement and then began to grind, not just on his players and his employers but on himself. Late in his stays in Chicago and Milwaukee, Skiles was the one ready to spit out the bit, just to end the aggravation.
No one had much faith, when the Magic hired Skiles last May as their 12th coach, that Orlando would be any different. Except that it was — Skiles announced his resignation Thursday morning, surprising the NBA at large after just one season.
“After much thought and careful consideration, I and I alone, have come to the conclusion that I am not the right head coach for this team,” said Skiles. “Therefore, effective immediately, I resign my position as head coach of the Orlando Magic. I realize this type of decision can cause much speculation. The reality though is in the first sentence. It is simple and true. Any other rumors are pure conjecture.”
“I sincerely apologize for any unintended consequences that may adversely affect anyone associated with this decision,” Skiles continued. “The Magic are a world-class organization that employs world-class people. I wish them nothing but great success. I will always be thankful, especially to the [owner Rich] DeVos family, for the opportunity.”
As direct as Skiles’ explanation was, it also was accurate: conjecture immediately followed. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel noted that:
The Magic finished Skiles’ lone season as the head coach with a 35-47 record.
But the team started the year 19-13, and Skiles felt the team’s inability to recover during an awful January in which they went 2-12 was indicative of an overall softness within the team and a lack of a professional mindset.
And Robbins’ colleague, Brian Schmitz, hinted at a disconnect between Magic GM Rob Hennigan over personnel and tactics:
Hennigan, who had referred to Skiles as a “tremendous fit” when hiring him less than 12 months ago, was quoted on the Magic’s official statement as well:
“While we understand it was a challenging season, we reluctantly have accepted Scott’s (Skiles) resignation,” said Hennigan. “We appreciate Scott instilling a culture of accountability and certainly wish him and his family well.”
The timeline of Skiles’ lone season as Orlando’s coach — he also played 384 of his 600 games as an NBA point guard for the franchise — seemed typical but accelerated. The Magic improved by 10 games to 35-47 last season and showed progress on both sides of the ball. Their offensive rating improved from 99.6 in 2014-15 to 102.6 this season, while their defensive rating improved from 105.2 to 104.6.
But Skiles’ patience apparently flagged more quickly as well. It wasn’t initially known whether Skiles had negotiated a buyout of the remaining years on his reported four-year contract (or will attempt to do so).
What does seem clear is that, in a profession where no owners or GMs embrace one-year plans – and generally prefer to do the firing — Skiles’ unexpected resignation won’t have him atop any team’s candidate list anytime soon.