Skiles would give Magic much-needed toughness

Scott Skiles would give Orlando Magic much-needed toughness

The day after last season’s draft, Magic GM Rob Hennigan said he was looking to select some “hard-nosed dudes.”

Well, Hennigan and the Magic just might be handing the head-coaching reins over to perhaps the hardest-nose dude in franchise history.

And Scott Skiles is just what this team needs right now – an intense, no-nonsense leader with vast coaching experience who has a track record of improving teams.

Skiles, 51, is the “strong frontrunner” to be hired, according to Yahoo sports.

The Sentinel reported the day that Jacque Vaughn was fired that Skiles – who lives in Mount Dora -- was interested in the job.

The Magic, along with the New Orleans Pelicans, had been waiting on the expected break-up of the Chicago Bulls and Tom Thibodeau.

But apparently the Bulls want compensation to release Thibs, who has two more years on his contract. If it’s draft choices they demanded, that was a deal-breaker for the Magic.

There was no way Hennigan was going to part with first-round picks today – or tomorrow -- for a coach.

The Magic gave up a second-round choice to Miami in 2007 so the Heat would release Stan Van Gundy, the former Heat head coach who was serving as a paid consultant.

So the Magic might be replacing one former franchise point guard with another.

A fan favorite, Skiles played point guard for Orlando for their first five seasons as a franchise, from 1989-90 to 1993-94.

Around midseason, the Magic fired Jacque Vaughn, who played for the club for one season at the point in 2002-03.

Vaughn, hired to shepherd the post-Dwight Howard rebuild in 2012, had never been a head coach.

Skiles has coached at Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, compiling a 443-433 regular-season record in 13 seasons. His teams reached the playoffs six times.

The Magic apparently won’t be landing Thibodeau, but Skiles is in the Thibodeau mold: A demanding, defensive-minded coach who gets the most out of his teams – and perhaps pushes them too hard for too long.

The Magic, 25-57 last season, certainly need help on the defensive end. They also squandered leads and struggled to close games.

Moreover, they need an identity.

The team has few key veterans. And if there’s an uncertainly with Skiles, it’s how he’ll adapt to the process of developing so many young players. His days as a former point guard could benefit rookie Elfrid Payton.

Hennigan spoke of wanting to find “hard-nosed dudes,” but the Magic clearly need to get tougher physically and mentally as a group.

Skiles’s trademark as a player was toughness, a trait he has tried passing down as a coach.

He wouldn’t back down from anyone despite standing barely 6-feet, playing the game like a free safety.

A star at Michigan State, he wasn't forecast to have a long NBA career, but out-worked everyone to play 10 seasons.

He was traded after his rookie season by the Bucks and then discarded by the Indiana Pacers, made available to Orlando in the 1989 expansion draft. With the Magic, he was named the league's most improved player in 1990-91

Intense? It wasn’t unusual for Scott to throw shoes, clothes and equipment, the debris flying from his locker after a loss.

There was a reason teammates nicknamed him “Chucky” after the horror-movie doll.

As the legend goes, Skiles, frustrated by Shaquille O’Neal’s lack of focus, once threw a punch at the 7-1, 325-pound Shaq in practice.

If Scott Skiles is the Magic’s man, expect the tone and tenor of the club to change to hard-nosed, too.

You can reach Brian Schmitz at bschmitz@tribune.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
56°