The Orlando Magic hired former point guard Scott Skiles a choice that's proven unpopular among analysts and Magic fans alike. Is Skiles, who's had some success in his 13 years as an NBA coach, the right person for the Magic's job? Can he mesh with the Magic's fully stocked young roster, or will he struggle to find consistency, something that's cost him before?
Going into the offseason, it was unclear how long the Magic might search for their next head man. During the team's exit interviews, general manager Rob Hennigan was tight-lipped regarding the search, not willing to give out any information. As time progressed, it appeared as though the coaching search could be a long, drawn-out one, which would've opened the door for the Magic to interview some of the league's top assistants who were still in the midst of the playoff race.
However, that scenario never came to pass, as Skiles, whose name was thrown around during the season following Jacque Vaughn's dismissal, appears to be one of the few candidates the team has chosen to talk to. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported the Magic also interviewed former Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson. Josh Robbins followed that report by saying Orlando also interviewed Fred Hoiberg and Mark Jackson. With all the time, and already available options, why would the Magic have only talked to a handful of coaches, only one of whom was employed by an NBA team?
The easy answer would be that they're locked in, believing that Skiles, a proven coach who has taken multiple teams to the playoffs, would be the best fit for them right now. Add in the general lack of inexperience of some of the other potential candidates--Jackson (three years) and Mike Malone (just over one season)--it makes sense that they're going in this direction.
While hiring Skiles isn't sexy, it could end up being the right move. With no real long-term coaches out there, getting someone who is going to come in and give the team a true identity and help it improve in the short-term is huge.
Moreover, Skiles has had some of, if not the best, defensive teams in the league while he was their coach. In his 13 years, he has not had a team finish with a defensive rating worse than 16th in the league, and the two times it happened were in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, one he only coached 66 games, and the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Over those 13 seasons, Skiles-led teams finished in the top four in defensively six times, and in the top seven seven times.
While Skiles' teams have done exceptionally well on the defensive end, they've struggled on the other. In his 13 years, none of his teams has ever had an offensive rating higher than 13th, a feat the Bucks accomplished in aforementioned lockout-shortened year. However, Skiles-coached teams have finished in the top 11 in pace 11 of his 13 years coaching, which would benefit the Magic's young athletes who like to get out and run.
Even though Skiles has had trouble with his teams offensively in the past, the Magic could have the solution. When the team let go of Vaughn and three of his assistants in February, it added longtime assistant Igor Kokoskov to James Borrego's staff. Kokoskov has served as the lead assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns previously, and as an assistant on the Detroit Pistons' 2004 championship team. Kokoskov is considered an offensive coordinator, and his expertise would help alleviate some of the shortcomings that Skiles may have on that end of the floor.
Add in that Skiles has had success with teams that were arguably less talented than the Magic are, and you have a potential recipe for success.
Skiles may not be the popular pick for coach, especially with the Bulls having parted ways with Tom Thibodeau on Thursday, but it's one that could get the Magic to the next step. Skiles may not be a long-term guy, but that's okay. You can't hit a home run with every move, and this is a safe one that will return the Magic to competitiveness.