Scott Skiles is the latest surprise in a wild NBA coaching summer
Skiles steps down at a time when the NBA coaching carousel is still in full swing; Orlando becomes the fifth current vacancy along with the Rockets, Pacers, Grizzlies and Knicks.
CHICAGO -- As the league gathers here for the annual draft combine, it's understood that the event itself actually has turned into much more. Sure, player interviews and physical measurements are important, but so is meeting with agents to discuss free agency and scanning the landscape for your next coach.
The latter has become the focus of this NBA offseason, and things got crazier on Thursday when Scott Skiles announced that he was stepping down as head coach of the Orlando Magic after one season. The stunning news raised the official, running total of coaching vacancies to 11 this summer; more than a third of the league.
"Someone told me after the season that there could be 10 or 11 openings this summer, and I said, 'No way, that's crazy,'" one established NBA coach told me Wednesday night.
Crazy, as we can see, is the new normal.
In a statement released by the team, Skiles said: "I and I alone, have come to the conclusion that I am not the right head coach for this team." According to a league source, Skiles and GM Rob Hennigan "had some disagreements" over philosophy and roster composition; in this age of blurred lines between coach and front office, what coach and GM don't? There was no specific incident that prompted Skiles' resignation, another source said. It was something that had been building for a while.
In some ways, Skiles' departure is similar to when he stepped down as coach of the Bucks in 2013 after five seasons. Burned out and tired of the roster, Skiles had been seeking an exit from Milwaukee for almost a year, and reportedly had hoped to get out in time to pursue the Magic job that went to Jacque Vaughn in 2012. Vaughn was fired in the middle of his third season, and sure enough, Orlando hired Skiles last summer.
Skiles steps down at a time when the NBA coaching carousel is still in full swing; Orlando becomes the fifth current vacancy along with the Rockets, Pacers, Grizzlies and Knicks. An Indiana native, Skiles, 52, would make sense as a candidate for Larry Bird's Pacers -- though it's unclear whether draft-pick compensation would become an issue, given that Skiles had three years left on his contract. The Pacers also are believed to be strongly considering former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, who has emerged on the short list of early candidates for Orlando, according to two people in the coaching industry. Hornacek impressed the Magic front office in interviewing for the team's vacancy that went to Vaughn in 2012.
The other early candidates for the Magic include assistant Adrian Griffin; former assistant and interim head coach James Borrego, who was passed over in favor of Skiles and then joined Gregg Popovich as an assistant in San Antonio; former assistant coach Patrick Ewing, who was on Stan Van Gundy's staff in Orlando; and Vogel.
And though it is widely presumed that Knicks president Phil Jackson has all but decided to anoint interim coach Kurt Rambis, one league coaching source told CBS Sports Thursday that the job is "still wide open."
The way things are going in the coaching business, aren't they all?
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