Bucks Look to the Big Sky
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NOT MILWAUKEE, March 15, 2007 -- When I was growing up in Milwaukee in the '80s, I often listened to the top Top 40 station in town, WKTI. Its morning team of Bob Reitman and Gene Mueller (pronounced Miller) would often run bumpers to tout their Milwaukee savvy. The voice over guy would intone that Reitman and Mueller know this about this, that about that and the following, which I've always remembered and, to this day, still makes me chuckle: "They can name every coach in the history of the Milwaukee Bucks ... And now, Reitman and Mueller!"

Anyone who was a Bucks fan in the '80s knew you didn't need too many synapses to fire to "name every coach in the history of the Milwaukee Bucks." There were two: Larry Costello and Don Nelson.

Fast forward 21 years. Reitman's retired, but even if he were still on the air he would be hard pressed to name all of the Bucks coaches without consulting the media guide. Since the 1986-87 season, Nelson's last, the Bucks have gone through coaches like Tom Brady goes through supermodels. Starting with Del Harris, ending with Terry Stotts and with FrankHamblenMikeDunleavyChrisFordGeorgeKarlandTerryPorter in between, the Bucks have had seven head coaches in the last 20 years.

Scratch that. Make it eight, as the Bucks replaced Stotts Wednesday with former Bucks power forward, current assistant coach and copy editor's nightmare, Larry Krystkowiak.

That the Bucks replaced Stotts was not a surprise. The normally right-down-the-pipe, don't-rock-the-boat sports section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went all Dick Cheney in Stotts' face on Feb. 15, spraying buckshot far and wide after the Celtics snapped their 18-game skid over the Bucks' head before the All-Star break. Fans on message boards had been calling for Stotts' dismissal nearly from the season's opening tip.

But then again, owners and GMs rarely (and shouldn't) give credence to once in a blue moon vitriol from a columnist and anyone who writes on the internet. (Um, wait, let me back up there for a second...)

Contrary to the popular belief of some fans, Stotts knows the game and is as prepared as any coach in the league. A number of other things did Stotts in: injuries, an anemic defense, the inability of his team to close out games, maybe his mild manner, fate and the University of Utah.

What, you ask, the Bucks lost to the Utes?

No, but it's being reported that Utah played a part in the Bucks' curious timing in making their decision to replace Stotts with Krystkowiak. Why do it with 18 games left in the season? Why now?

Because the Bucks couldn't, or wouldn't, wait. Check out this story from the March 14 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune: UTAH BASKETBALL: Utes Want Krystkowiak. The paper reported that the Utes went as far as offering Krystkowiak the job.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein noted this in his blog on ESPN Insider (subscription):

"Strong interest from the University of Utah in hiring Krstkowiak to replace Ray Giacoletti certainly sped up the Bucks' timetable in deciding Stotts' future. But Stotts was certain to be dismissed at season's end if it didn't happen now, with Krystkowiak -- formerly a head coach at the University of Montana, his alma mater -- oft-mentioned as a top candidate to replace him."

In this case, "oft-mentioned" turned into "stone-cold lock" as the Bucks sealed a deal with Krystkowiak on Wednesday night.

What will Krystkowiak bring to Milwaukee besides a 6-9 frame and a hard to spell last name?

Well, not much coaching experience, for one. He had a one-year stint as coach of the Idaho Stampede (ne CBA, now D-League) in 2003-04, and two years as the head coach of the Montana Grizzlies, where he led his alma mater to the NCAA Tourney two consecutive years. Then again, Nelson had no coaching experience when the Bucks named him head coach games into the 1976-77 season.

So, instead of leading a Ute movement, Krystkowiak gets to oversee the Bucks' youth movement (At 27, Michael Redd was the Bucks' oldest starter). The learning curve will be steep, too. Krystkowiak makes his debut against the Spurs on Thursday.

What Krystkowiak does bring is knowledge of playing in the post, a good rapport with Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva and fire that Stotts didn't have. Krystkowiak has been known to give some, let's say, loud verbal encouragement at halftime. That, and a lot more defense, is what the Bucks need, and what they'll get from Krystkowiak. Maybe he can light a fire under this team.

And if he does, Bucks fans hope he'll be one coach who can stick around long enough to stoke the flames.

Thoughts? Complaints? E-mail us. Also, you can listen to Rob Peterson on NBA Radio, Sirius 127 every Monday at 7:30 a.m. ET, and every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.