If I Inflict the Pain Then, Baby, Only I Can Comfort You

"Kirk, do you like movies about gladiators?"

Scott Skiles could have been many things. I mean, with that court vision, that sense of floor leadership, that never-quit attitude? And with that personality!? Sheeeeeeeit, String! He could have been a credit card collections agent, a Department of Corrections officer or maybe even a semi-professional animal torturer. He’s got that look, right?

Little known fact: Scott Skiles died during child birth. True story! But do you think he let that stop him? Fuck no! He was the first one there and the last one to leave, and before you knew it, all those hours in the maternity ward paid off and he brought himself back to life. Dreams are free, motherfucker.

So why would Scott, with life unfolding like a Choose Your Own Adventure tale before him, decide, after an admirable career working harder than everybody on seminal teams like the ‘88-’89 Pacers (28-54! Fuck you know about that!?) and the ‘94-‘95 Bullets (21-61! That’s 61-21 to a Dyslexic!), to try his hand at clipboard graffiti?

Shit, I’m just spitballing here…but I bet it’s because coaches are the only people who have ever given him any sense of affirmation in his entire life.And that’s why he sodomizes people’s careers.

Since before they sprout short and curlies, basketball players are basketball players. Boom. I just said that.

What that means is that when Brian Hill tells somebody to really buckle down and get a stop, or when Scott banshee-screams from the depths of his pained dwarf soul that the baby Bulls need to be fighting for every loose ball it is, even for young rookies, IT IS THE 802,135TH TIME THEY HAVE HEARD THAT BULLSHIT IN THEIR LIVES. At some point it just all starts to sound the fucking same!

"You want me to rotate?! Aw, shit! I’ve been out there half-heartedly wandering through life and thinking about the poetry of Frank O’Hara! No wonder the other team keeps scoring! Peace, God; now the shit is explained! I need to really get the shit out of my ears!"

Coaches only need to do a few things:

1) Call timeouts when you're getting dumped on.
2) Make a rotation and define people's roles.
3) Prepare the team for whoever the fuck they're up against.

This kind of hands-on, up-in-the-mix, aggro, micro-management, I-was-never-good-enough-for-dad-and-you'll-never-be-good-enough-for-me bullshit is just a waste of time, oxygen and cap room:

"B.G., do you see a midget anywhere around here? One that might be talking backwards? And is there an old woman holding a log that I'm not seeing? No, right? So I'm not dreaming. This is not Twin Peaks. Then could you tell me why the Grinch Who Stole My Contract Extension is putting hands on me?"

The fucking amazing thing about George Karl and Scott Skiles' attempts at "mind games" is they're fucking awful at it! My 8th grade girlfriend was more of a puppetmaster than these d-bags! Has it ever worked!? Might there be a reason why the only player who actually likes Karl is Anthony fucking Mason?! When they look in the mirror what do they see?


Same goes for Elbow Grease Skiles. When somebody asks you what Eddy Curry could do to improve his rebounding and you say, "Jump," you fucking play yourself. You might go home and rub one out to the clip of you saying it on the 2:00 AM Sportscenter, b ut that's all anyone is getting out of the whole excercise.

Wanna know why Josh Howard became Josh Fucking Howard? My guess is that Avery instilled in him a sense of self-belief. That's how these things work.

Of course there’s a flipside to all this. Some coaches are too forgiving, too willing to fall on their own spear. The opposite of Skiles would be someone like Andy Reid. If Brian Westbrook went railroading down the field, leaving all prospective tacklers to admire him from a distance, and then proceeded to stop short of the end zone, pull a piece out and go down like kid from The Last Boy Scout.

...you could bet your hedge fund that Reid would be in front of reporters 20 minutes later muttering,

"This one’s on me guys. I should have seen that Brian had some suicidal ideation and I have to be more aware of that. It's my responsibility as coach to make sure our players don't kill themselves on the field. I’ve got to manage that better.”

And then there's always Professor Jackson, gazing out into enlightenment somewhere on the horizon, making his team confront their own fears by not calling timeouts. That probably wouldn't work out to well if he was coaching the Grizz.

But check this horseshit out:

Ben is as very good offensive player. Other areas of his game need a lot of work. It’s easy for anybody to see that. It’s not that he’s not a very good player for us or anything. He wants to be good, he says, in all aspects of the game. My job is to help him get where he wants to go.”

1) Ben Gordon wins fucking games. 2) As someone who actually watches basketball from time to time can I just say I'VE HAD ENOUGH DEFENSE. You know who plays defense? Ben Wallace. You know who bricks lay-ups like a JV walk-on with vertigo? Ben Wallace. Skiles skull-fucked Tyson Chandler and now he's getting 15+ boards a night. Skiles ridiculed Eddy Curry as a lazy fat kid and now he's probably gonna become a dominant center. And when Skiles is coaching womens basketball at the Joan Didion Institute for the Criminally Insane, Ben Gordon will be POPPING TAGS. File all that next to Jason Kidd in his anthology of coaching achievments.

You know what? Enough. This, ultimately, is how Skiles is gonna be remembered in the Chi. It's all that needs to be said. You really only deserve half a bar:


At 3/09/2007 3:15 PM, Anonymous sjents said...

It's about time someone called out the questionable half of the Orlando Magic's team from the original NBA JAM!.

Billups, we want you on that wall.

We need you on that wall.

At 3/09/2007 3:28 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

The greatest post on NBA coaching ever. Give the man a round of applause.

At 3/09/2007 3:33 PM, Anonymous man_listen said...

I don't think I understand. you're saying skiles is expecting too much when he challenges players or that he goes about it the wrong way? b scott & g pop are some tough coaches too. some players respond some don't.

sleepy van gundy is on some other shit

At 3/09/2007 4:06 PM, Anonymous paddy said...

did you even see Tyson play last year?

did you see him in 2004-05 (under Skiles)?

Did you seen him play for Floyd & Cartwright too?

Are you aware of the Eddy Curry DNA test fiasco?

At 3/09/2007 4:15 PM, Anonymous youshoottoomuch said...

"running made game as if my name was scott skiles/or better yet magic or even karl malone/regardless who it is your aim is to SKULLFUCK TYSON CHANDLER!"

scott skiles' career peaked in '82 when he won the indiana state high school basketball championship, beating gary roosevelt (eventual big dog alma mater) on some hoosiers shit. all things after that were anti-climatic.

At 3/09/2007 4:36 PM, Anonymous SK said...

Awesome work, Mr. Big Post. Skiles was ripe for a takedown and down he got took.

At 3/09/2007 4:56 PM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

shaq was the questionable half of the magic in the original nba jam. stout bitch was an absolute assasin from three. meanwhile diesel would inexplicably attempt finger rolls 2 feet from the basket.

like the 27 inch zenith, believe it.

At 3/09/2007 5:07 PM, Anonymous Yo! Noid said...

Is this blog ever anything other than white people slurping black basketball players? Do you have any self knowledge? Why allow yourself to be a cultural stereotype?

Get this: every poster on this blog needs to learn what "exoticism" is. Your love for black people as an entity and your white-on-white racism is not respect, it's not positive racialism. It's love for the other, and that's about as real as loving Japan by watching Karate Kid.

At 3/09/2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous bernard snowy said...

damn, even billups's indie-rock game is airtight

At 3/09/2007 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

last night during the bulls-magic game, one of the announcers mentioned skiles was going to have a barbecue for the bulls squad today at his home in florida if they won.

that approach stopped working for me in fifth grade, so i was shocked skiles was employing it. reading this, it all becomes clear.

At 3/09/2007 5:41 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Best post in a while. I can't wait for Charlotte to hire Larry Brown, and then for the same type of post.

At 3/09/2007 5:48 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i'd be interested in how you came to that conclusion, noid. i think most of us (freedarko people, not commentors whom i have no claim to represent) have a pretty fully realized knowledge of self.

i bring this up only tangentially, but i randomly came upon something that referenced the whole "steven merritt (magnetic fields) is a racist because he doesn't like black music" controversy from a couple years ago, and it seems to me that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. you're either an exclusionist bigot or a fetishist.

also, as a nikkei myself, i think karate kid is pretty respectful. they even make pat morita a veteran of the 442nd. that's knowledge, god.

At 3/09/2007 5:48 PM, Blogger T.A. Negro said...

hot fire. that's definitely a "hold your head" joint right there.

but, since genetics dictates that I offer a quibble:

Wanna know why Josh Howard became Josh Fucking Howard? My guess is that Avery instilled in him a sense of self-belief. That's how these things work.

that means another bullet has to be added to the Coaches "to-do" list, right?

And that's what these guys are trying to do, without success, like say Pat Riley. But throwing lotto tickets in a wok, or whatever the Heat did last year, would be just as laughable if it didn't culminate in a trophy.

At 3/09/2007 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Who are the other -- If I was half as big as they are , with my ugliness and toughness (really petty meanness) ,I would have been the greatest NBA player -- the Czar, Hubie ?

At 3/09/2007 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quick point, it's not just that Phil Jackson doesn't like to call timeouts it's just that there's a method to his madness. When you have Kobe on your team, u gotta let him ride a bit.
Overall great post.

At 3/09/2007 8:54 PM, Anonymous danny said...

Billups is warming up in March. This is a long range from the baseline elevating right over Skiles' flat feet, then stripping him on the next play and cramming on his head. Awesome.

Re: Noid - it ain't where yr from, but where yr at. I think Brown does FD a disservice through comparison with the Merritt fiasco - that guy just hates black music and then wants to pretend race doesn't matter.


FD understands that race is an integral part of the game and always has been. Yes, there is always an unavoidable, uncomfortable history whenever white people engage black culture, but better to surface that than to deny the obvious as a way of normalising whiteness, as the "right way" ideology does.

Billups lost the handle a little on Jackson, but I think the crafty Phil's appropriation of Native American philosophy intriguingly shifts the racial dynamic into another wholly unexplored area of US race politics.

At 3/09/2007 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i lost my shit after the 'dreams are free, motherfucker' line and i knew it was billups... mighty fine work, sir. made my weekend.

At 3/09/2007 11:45 PM, Anonymous cw said...

I think you might be right about Skiles (you were definitely right about karl--I lived through the karl years in Seattle and I honestly think that he's got some kind of mental issue), but... Eddy Curry is not going to be a top center. A top center has to play defense and rebound. All the things Skiles wanted him to do. He's gooing to be just good enough on offense that it's hard to really trade him, but too deficient in other areas to get you into genuine contention. There's guys out there like that. Guys that are really good at one aspect of the game to get you into the playoffs but fatally flawed as far as the finals go. It's hard to get rid of them, because the seem to be almost the that dominant player. You think if they could just up thier game in this other area, we could be great... They give you the illusion of being in contention so teams hold on to them.

But if you don't get rid of them, their presence on the team prevents the development of someone who may be the one that will get you there. Marbury and Francis are both that kind of player I'm talking about. It took a long time for teams to give up on them.

I was sitting here trying to think of modern day examples (Dominique was an old time example) and Marbury and Francis just popped into my head. Funny how they are both on the knicks as well as my inspiration for this comment, Eddy Curry.

The Knicks got to trade Lee, quick.

At 3/10/2007 12:01 AM, Anonymous HonestTea said...

This post simply needed to be birthed, and I'm glad it was Billups who stepped up to do it.

The single worst thing for the NBA is micro-managing coaches who think they should be parents. Skiles, Karl, and let's not forget Larry Brown. Even worse than bad refs, worse than Wayne Newton during the ASG, worse than MJ grading the dunk contest, these coaches are killing the game.

:07 Seconds or Less portrayed D'Antoni and his assistants as coaches who knew to trust their players, and how that was instrumental to the Sun's success.

How Skiles can possibly believe that Big Ben, a veteran and proven no-nonsense hard worker, could damage his team simply by wearing a headband is beyond me. Just rediculous.

At 3/10/2007 4:18 AM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

Billups spits Knowledge again. Great stuff. Down with the Tyrant Skiles. More Coaches like D'Antoni, who lets his guys Flow.

Basketball is Free.

At 3/10/2007 11:59 AM, Anonymous Freddie said...

It's complicated... I'm a Bulls fan, and I haven't had a problem with Scott Skiles. I think it's a matter of personelle. You can't really blame him for Tyson Chandler, because I'm here to tell you... dude was awful. I'm glad he's rejuvenated his career, but this was someone who just wore out his welcome. In part, the Bulls acquired Wallace as an attempt to match their personelle to that style. I do think that Skiles does quite well without a single great offensive player. I like Gordon, I'm a Uconn fan too, but I don't think he quite has it to be the man... we can't be the Suns, I guess.

As far as exoticism goes-- that's complicated, too. I mean, look: sports is a racially charged meme. You can't engage in sports discussion without talking about race, and yes, it's true, that by appropriating black dialect, Billups puts exoticism on the table. But look, as long as that is expressed openly and honestly, I don't think it's a problem. I am one of many white, unathletic NBA fans, and I'm sure there are aspects of my fandom which aren't entirely pure. But as long as we're upfront about our conflicted feelings towards race, and the NBA players who inhabit our racial attitudes, we're okay.

That made very little sense. Read Lewis Gordon's Bad Faith and Anti-Black Racism. He says what I wish I could express.

At 3/10/2007 12:11 PM, Blogger zip said...

There are four great NBA coaches in the NBA today - Jax, Pop, Sloan and Riley.

JVG and D'Antoni deserve mention (and Avery and Byron are up and comers), but they are good not great.

There two extremes in NBA coaching.

Being too much of a players coach and not giving your players enough X and O instruction (Isiah Thomas), or over-micromanaging and treating your players like pawns with no reverence for their being(s), (Skiles).

The coaches who know the balance between instilling a sense of trust in the team (between players and player/coach relationship) and not overusing the clipboard (but using it enough to have team discipline) are the only successful coaches in the NBA.

How many coaches have won an NBA championship in the last 25 years?

1. Jackson (9 rings, 10 finals appearances)
2. Riley (5 rings, 9 finals appearances)
3. Popovich (3 rings)
4. Tomjanovich (2 rings)
5. KC Jones (2 rings, 4 finals appearances)
6. Larry Brown (1 ring, 3 finals appearances)
7. Daly (2 rings, 3 finals appearances)
8. Billy Cunningham (1 ring - 83 Sixers, 3 finals appearances)

25 years, 8 coaches have won championships?

Jax and Riley are the only to do it with two different teams (and Riley had another appearance with the Knicks). Larry Brown is the only other coach in the last quarter century to take two different teams to the NBA finals.

Outside of that group of prestige only Adelman, Scott (with the Nets in a putrid East) and Sloan have even made any noise each with two Finals appearances.

At 3/10/2007 12:22 PM, Anonymous Pat Ewing IV said...

Phil Jackson, unlike most coaches writes notes on his white board instead of showing plays. I'm sure he can't fit too many words on that thing

At 3/10/2007 4:50 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Great post. What I'm wondering is to which degree coaching success is achieved by using the proper methods (motivation, teaching etc.) or, on the other hand, how big the inluence of the coach's personality is.

Take Skiles, Popovich and Sloan, three guys who are looking for roughly the same things out of their players in terms of discipline and style of play, with the exception of Pop letting Manu roam from time to time. Is it just that Popovich and Sloan rely on the proper means to elicit the desired behavior in their players? Or isn't it rather their personality - or even swag, if you will - that is authentic in Popovich and isn't in Skiles?

In other words, why do players appear to follow Skiles' rules because they have to but appear to follow Popovich because they genuinely want to?

I don't know if the answer is as easy as just pointing to the oft-cited leadership qualities or being able to connect with people. By some accounts Sloan is as big a jerk towards some of his players as Skiles seems to be. To me, some people (be it coaches or referees) just naturally command respect while others are always working to get it.

At 3/11/2007 1:04 AM, Anonymous amphibian said...

It is not true that some people "naturally" command respect while others get the "through the other ear" treatment. The people that get the Godfather ring kiss consciously understand the psychology and biomechanics of managing groups of people. They work for respect in an efficient manner that makes it look innate or easy.

Robert Greene spends a good amount of time on that subject in his books (worth reading). Here's a blog post that somewhat deals with this Skiles/bad boss thing: http://www.powerseductionandwar.com/archives/a_theory_of_con.phtml

At 3/11/2007 5:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm offically too old for this website now, but, I have to ask...

Is Skiles wrong about Curry? Does Curry really want rebounds, and somehow I've missed it?

What about Ben Gordon? Is he really a good all-around player, and I've just missed that, too?

At 3/11/2007 2:39 PM, Blogger matt bird said...

Billups is getting his grind on (no exoticism).

At 3/12/2007 1:02 AM, Blogger T. said...

Skilies coaches like he played. He may have been a short stout caucasian point guard, but he definately had a IDGAF attitude - my favorite moment was he caught a ball off the tip-off and turned and launched a 30 foot 3 point shot.

I'm not sure I agree with Bill-ups premise though - I think certain teams (and players) respond to certain coaches - I think Scotty S can be a successful coach in this league with a team of Dengs and Hinriches. . . but it requires the right guys.

Heck, even the Right Way Coach made it to the Finals with AI and a bunch of broken down pieces.

At 3/12/2007 10:40 AM, Blogger Trey said...

It's depressing knowing that the Bulls won't win a chip with Skiles, while knowing that Paxon backs him so hard.

At 3/12/2007 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

billups ur a john edwards

At 3/12/2007 9:34 PM, Anonymous nick said...

I usually just sit back and bemusedly ponder the whimsical writings of people obviously smarter than me on FD. This time, though, I have to call bullshit.

Skiles is a blowhard who treats his players like crap sometimes. Fair enough. However, I suffered through the lackluster Baby Bulls years (fuck you very much, Reindsorf) and that's not the complete story by far.

Tyson Chandler had hands of stone, disappeared regularly from big games and pouted like a 4 yr old girl. He also has negative 3 million offensive game and will absolutely destroy any offense not facilitated by Chris Paul's genius. Eddy Curry couldn't, still can't, and never will be able to play defense or rebound worth a damn. If you could combine them into some kind of hideous Frankensteinian lab then you'd get a single dominant post player but until then each is missing half a game. The sad truth is Eddy would actually be an infintely better rebounder if he would just make even a half-hearted effort.

Skiles didn't draft 2 whiny, immature high school kids, he just got stuck with them and their inability to improve, although Tyson at least tried. I'd much rather have a coach who demands that guys play hard than some lassez-faire jerkoff.

FD is way too caught up in its' imaginary battle of Style vs. the Right Way. The writing on this blog makes it sound like defense and fundamentals are the freaking Black Plague, but there's a reason Tim Duncan still dominates younger, faster, more athletic guys with ease. It's not like I can't simultaneously enjoy Pistons/Spurs 72-69 grinders and love the untapped potential for greatness and unmitigated disaster of Gerald Green and JR Smith. Whatever, shit like this is why college basketball is frequently 1000 times more interesting, because nobody rants and raves about how much of a monstrous a-hole a coach is if he tries to get his players to play hard and act like they care.

I put down a name cause I know FD wigs out on anonymous commenters if you want to fire back.

As talented a writer as Billups is, everyone needs to back up off his jock like he's the 2nd coming.

At 3/12/2007 10:24 PM, Anonymous Freddie said...

Well said Nick.

At 3/13/2007 8:46 AM, Anonymous precocious neophyte said...

I disagree, not well said, Nick. Billups deserves all the props he's getting for this post. It's the authoritarianism and the public mind games that are at issue here, not whether Eddy Curry would be better if he played more like Tim Duncan.

Nick says, "I'd much rather have a coach who demands that guys play hard than some lassez-faire jerkoff." This is a moral statement that has nothing to do with winning basketball games. What good is "demanding" that guys play hard if they, then, don't play hard (or well)? And do play hard and play well for some "laissez-faire jerkoff" like Isiah Thomas?

This statement is a preference not for The Right Way of Discipline, Effort, and Rebounding, but for yelling and screaming a lot about it! Rather than molding a bunch of imperfect but talented young guys into a championship-caliber team, it's a preference for crying about what they don't do.

Unless you think that shit actually works. One of Billups points was that it doesn't, and I agree. Pat Riley's Knicks played as hard as any team I've ever seen -- but he treated them like men, with respect. Even Charles Smith.

Instead of whining about your players in the newspaper, these Right Way guys need to shut up and do their damn jobs. Eddy and Tyson were "whiny" and "immature"? If he didn't like their games, it was Skiles job to -- 1) help improve them or 2) bench them. It's that simple. Leave the motivational speaking, "in a van down by the river" amateur hour stuff out of it. Oh, and at that age, Skiles was lucky not to be in jail...

At 3/14/2007 1:43 PM, Blogger Phil said...

Where does Phil Jackson calling out players in offseason books he writes fit into this debate?

At 4/13/2009 5:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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