DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Scott Skiles' reputation was forged by his feisty playing style and later by his no-nonsense, in-your-face approach during his first NBA coaching stop in Phoenix.
Can he rub off on the disappointing Chicago Bulls or will he
just rub his players the wrong way?
When he took over Friday as Chicago's head coach, Skiles said it
was wins and not confrontations he was seeking after nearly two
years away from the sidelines.
"No question I'm a different coach than then, but I don't
deviate from the core principles that I believe in, in how the game
should be played," Skiles said.
That would be all-out effort and game-long defense, key
ingredients sometimes missing during the Bulls' 4-12 start. Bill Cartwright was fired after the Bulls went 4-10 and then they lost
two more games under interim coach Pete Myers.
Skiles said coaching players with big contracts and strong wills
requires a mixture of techniques.
"One day it's telling them how much you like them and how happy
you are and you encourage them. And other times, it's more serious
than that and it can be confrontational," Skiles said, dressed in
his new Bulls warmups after running his first practice.
"I think that is what has been put on me, is that 'He's
confrontational.' I think there is subtle difference there. I don't
search out the confrontation, but on other hand, I'm not afraid of
it either if it does occur."
Skiles had a 116-79 record as coach of the Suns from 1999-02,
and was 5-8 in the playoffs. His coaching methods created friction
with some of his players, most notably Jason Kidd, before Skiles
quit in February 2002. He has not coached since.
"It's going to be a feeling-out process. Scott is going to have
to be patient and the guys are going to work hard and allow him to
do what he has to do to make this change a positive change," Bulls
veteran Scottie Pippen said.
"We feel his bulldog personality will carry over hopefully to
the way we play," Jalen Rose added.
Skiles told the players he would judge them on performance, not
"I told them to wipe the slate clean," he said.
General manager John Paxson said his expectations were for the
Bulls to make the playoffs this season. But after a slow start,
they collapsed on a western road trip, losing all five games and
have dropped seven straight overall.
Skiles will make his Bulls coaching debut Monday at home against
"I know a new direction can help us," Paxson said. "Scott can
teach and coach and he has the fire that will serve us well. I
think we got the right guy to lead us into the future."
But Curry has struggled at times and Chandler has been hampered
by a sore back. There are also published reports of team friction
over selfish play, and there has been speculation that Rose will be
traded. And some of the players aren't thrilled by the selection of
Skiles to replace Cartwright.
But despite all of that, Skiles said the Bulls still have time
and the talent to make the playoffs -- especially in the weaker
Eastern Conference -- despite their dismal start.
"I have high expectations and so should they. I will not
abandon John and Bill's goal at the beginning of the season to make
the playoffs," Skiles said. "That is very realistic to me."
Skiles enjoyed his time away from the game and said it gave him
a new perspective on how important coaching was to his life.
"I am what I am," Skiles said of his coaching style. "I have
plenty of players who loved playing for me. I think these guys
Skiles played for Milwaukee, Indiana, Orlando, Washington and
Philadelphia during a gritty 10-year NBA career. He still holds the
NBA record for assists in a game with 30 for Orlando against Denver
on Dec. 30, 1990. He averaged 11.1 points and 6.5 assists.
He came to the NBA after a stellar college career at Michigan