Returning NBA Coach Profile: Scott Skiles (Orlando Magic)

Ryan Loftis By Ryan Loftis, 26th Sep 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Basketball

A profile of Scott Skiles, the new head coach of the NBA's Orlando Magic.

Early Years

Scott Skiles was born on March 5, 1964, in LaPorte, Ind. He led Plymouth High, one of Indiana's smallest schools, to the 1982 state championship and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Skiles recorded 39 points in the title game as Plymouth defeated heavily favored Gary Roosevelt 75-74 in overtime. In 2009, Skiles was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Michigan State

Skiles played four years at guard for Michigan State University. As a senior in the 1985-86 season he was the Big Ten's leading scorer and a first-team All-American and led the Spartans to the Sweet 16. The Lansing State Journal ranked Skiles third on its list of the 50 greatest basketball players in Michigan State history in September 2014. At the time he earned that recognition, Skiles held Spartans records for points in a season and field goal percentage for a guard who led Michigan State in scoring. He was also ranked second in school history in assists and third in steals.

But Skiles' time at Michigan State was also marred by legal problems. He was arrested in Plymouth, Ind., in August 1984 after a police officer found a plastic bag of marijuana and several vials of cocaine in his car. Less than a month later he was arrested in Meridian Township, Mich., after being pulled over for speeding and running a stop sign and was sentenced to probation. A little more than a year after his second arrest he was arrested for drunk driving in East Lansing, Mich. He had also violated probation by being at an establishment that served alcoholic beverages, and Skiles' lawyer and the Marshall County, Indiana, prosecutor reached an agreement for Skiles to spend 30 days in jail. Skiles ultimately served 15 days in the Marshall County Jail.


Skiles' legal problems didn't harm his NBA prospects. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted him with the 22nd overall pick in the 1986 Draft. The Bucks traded Skiles to the Indiana Pacers in June 1987. In June 1989, the Orlando Magic selected Skiles in the expansion draft. Skiles recorded 30 assists in a Dec. 30, 1990, game against the Denver Nuggets - an NBA record that still stands - and was named the league's Most Improved Player for the 1990-91 season.

After five years in Orlando, the Magic traded Skiles to the Washington Bullets in July 1994. He played one season for the Bullets before being released in July 1995. Skiles signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia 76ers in December 1995 but played in only 10 games before retiring. Skiles retired with career averages of 11.1 points, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Coaching Career Dawns

Skiles began his coaching career far from the NBA - in Greece, to be exact. After serving as head coach of PAOK, Skiles joined the Phoenix Suns as an assistant coach in 1997. Head coach Danny Ainge resigned 20 games into the 1999-2000 season, and Skiles was chosen to replace him. The Suns won 40 of the regular season's final 62 games and advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals. Phoenix won 51 regular-season games in 2000-01 and again made the playoffs, this time losing in the first round. Skiles left Phoenix in February 2002 with the Suns two games below .500. Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said Skiles' departure was not a firing.

Chicago Bulls

In November 2003, Skiles was chosen to replace Bill Cartwright as the Chicago Bulls' head coach. The Bulls lost their first nine games of the 2004-05 season but recovered to finish with 47 wins and make the playoffs for the first time since Michael Jordan was on their roster. Winning 12 of their final 14 regular-season games in the 2005-06 season enabled the Bulls to total 41 victories and make the playoffs again. The Bulls lost nine of their first 12 games in the 2006-07 season but ultimately won 49 games and earned their third straight postseason berth. Chicago swept the Miami Heat in the first round before losing to the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Bulls got of to another slow start in the 2007-08 season, and this time it would cost their coach his job. Chicago was 9-16 when Skiles was fired on Christmas Eve 2007. "I felt like something was going to happen," Bulls forward Luol Deng said in response to the firing. "I didn't know whether it was players or coaches. But you could definitely feel there was something. It just didn't seem like we were on the same page."

Milwaukee Bucks

Skiles' next job brought him back to where his NBA career began: He was hired as the Milwaukee Bucks' new head coach in April 2008. The Bucks made the playoffs only once in Skiles' time leading the team, and Skiles' departure was announced in January 2013. In a statement announcing the move, Skiles said he and general manager John Hammond had "met and mutually agreed that a coaching change would be in the best interest of both parties." Assistant coach Jim Boylan was chosen to replace Skiles (Boylan had also replaced Skiles in Chicago).

Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic announced Skiles as their new head coach on May 29, 2015. Skiles still ranked second in Magic history in assists and 10th in points scored when he was hired. He brought a 443-433 regular-season record and an 18-24 playoff record to Orlando.

The last three years have been extremely hard for Magic fans. Jacque Vaughn compiled a 43-121 record in his first two seasons as head coach. Orlando was 15-37 when Vaughn was fired on Feb. 5, 2015. James Borrego took over as interim coach and finished the season 10-20.


Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Scott Skiles

Meet the author

author avatar Ryan Loftis
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism degree and have been a freelance writer for various print and online publications since then.

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