Part II: Summer never endless for NBA coaches, families
Skiles' quest for progress offers little rest for weary
By Truman Reed
"We've tried to put ourselves in a position where we have avenues to get better," Skiles said. Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
Have you ever crossed paths with a National Basketball Association coach and his family while they were on summer vacation?
A colleague of mine has.
Believe it or not, the site was the swine barn at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
The aforementioned coach and the colleague exchanged greetings, and within the next half-hour or so, they and their families were checking out one of the State Fair's most popular attractions: the pig races.
Maybe Scott Skiles has already taken his family on that richly-deserved summer vacation mentioned in the first segment of this two-part story series. Maybe it's still on their summer itinerary.
If you happen to spot the Skiles family vacationing this summer, whether it be screaming and splashing down a giant waterslide in Wisconsin Dells, chowing down on a Paul Bunyan breakfast or maybe decked out in rhinestone shades (or cheap sunglasses) while catching ZZ Top at Summerfest, please don't interfere.
For starters, summer ought to be a time when coaches and their families can enjoy some quality time. That is hard to come by for the majority of an NBA season.
Furthermore, it's unwise to stand in front of a train, even if it happens to be a train of thought.
Shortly after bidding farewell for the summer to a number of his Milwaukee Bucks, Skiles still had one eye trained on the 2009-10 season. The other was at least glancing toward 2010-11.
"I'll go through the games and be looking at the decisions we made," Skiles said. "There's no possible way you can be on the sidelines and make the correct decision every decision throughout the course of the game. There's just no way. Some of it is analytic. I go into every game knowing who plays well against each opponent, who plays well each quarter all season long, who plays well on the road, I know all the matchups and you go in with a plan and then with foul trouble four minutes in, the plan is out the window and you're on your feet.
"You try to manage the game the best you can. You look at it and the decisions we made and the things we did and try to be honest in the assessment and critique myself honestly and try to get better."
One of the latest orders of business for Skiles and Bucks management has been working out prospects in preparation for the 2010 NBA Draft, which will be held June 24. The Bucks currently have the 15th selection as well as the 37th and 47th picks in this year's draft.
Skiles appreciates the fact that General Manager John Hammond and his staff have given the Bucks more and better personnel options as their administration of the franchise has unfolded. He realizes how pivotal the draft is for the franchise, and he will no doubt be a prominent figure in pre-draft proceedings.
"We've tried to put ourselves in a position where we have avenues to get better," Skiles said. "That doesn't mean that you're always going to make the correct decision or get the exact guys that you want or anything like that. We've got a first-round pick. We've got multiple seconds every year going forward. We've created some flexibility to be able to do things, even this summer and more the following summer.
"We're in position. Now we just have to take advantage of it. Length and athleticism are important. We need to shoot the ball better. We need to be a little more physical up front. There are several areas we can improve in. We probably aren't going to get them all accomplished between now and the start of camp, but that's what we need to try to do."
No matter whom the Bucks draft and what, if anything, they do in free agency or the trade market this summer, Skiles is well aware of the fact that opposing NBA teams realize what the Bucks accomplished last season. The chances of them being underestimated by any of those opponents are much less likely than they proved to be last season.
In case his players needed to be told that, Skiles took care of that in his exit interviews.
"I think there were a couple things we talked to the guys about today -- more than a couple -- but that was one of them," Skiles said. "Now people are going to swing in the opposite direction (with expectations) and go too far the other way.
"The other thing is we're in the business of going from 34 to 46 (wins) and now trying to go from 46 to 56 and 56 to 62. So we're going to try to get better and every player that leaves here today and the guys that are coming back, they need to know that we're going to try to have better players in this gym."
The Bucks contracts are guaranteed, but their spots on the team are not.
"There's going to be more competition," Skiles promised. "Nobody can assume anything. That's the nature of this business. Everybody's trying to get better and everybody's going after one thing.
"We're no different. We're going to try to get better."
For NBA coaches and players, vacations don't last long, do they?