View Full Version : Jay Mariotti on Bulls/ Pacers - a couple days old but still worth a read...

02-13-2004, 11:36 AM
I read this on the train the other night, and I kept forgetting to post a link on here. Keep in mind that the SunTimes is a tabloid like the NY Post, so he's supposed to be over-the-top and senationalistic (is that a word?)


Mount Skiles eruption only matter of time

February 11, 2004

The answers to my multiple-choice quiz are (a) the revolving ad board; (b) a game official; (c) a writer; (d) Jamal Crawford; (e) the locker-room wall; (f) Benny the Bull; (g) the master blaster in charge of the United Center music; or (h) all of the above.

Now, the question: On which object or human being will Scott Skiles finally vent his wrath and spew volcanic ash across the West Side?

About the best tribute I can give this poor man is that he has kept his notoriously hot head in check, though the wild-boar look in his eyes Tuesday night suggested a meltdown is forthcoming. Skiles has every right to lose his equilibrium after 2-1/2 torturous months of coaching the Bulls, the NBA's post-dynasty stragglers, whose 14-38 record has little to do with him and much to do with a lack of maturity, talent and team health. The dumbest thing I've read this week was a column stating Skiles is the wrong coach for this team. Let me state right here, right now, that no coach is right for this bedraggled bunch and that a hybrid of Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Dr. Jack Ramsay, John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, James Naismith and the guy on "The White Shadow'' wouldn't fare better than Skiles.

"We didn't show up. That's what it boils down to,'' Skiles said after his team wilted woefully in a 103-84 loss to the Indiana Pacers and an inspired ex-Bull, Ron Artest. "I could try and put a positive spin and say, 'We're gonna be all right, everything's OK.' I can't. There were a lot of plays where we weren't making extra effort to make plays to win a game. We got tattooed by a good team.

"We were really soft defensively. We turned it over. That has to be a performance we'd like to forget.''

Unfortunately, the amnesia bank is already full for this season and, upon further reflection, the previous five seasons. Still, if you're thinking Skiles is discouraged, understand he missed the gene pool when the pouts were distributed. Unlike Tim Floyd, who mostly fought Jerry Krause and the media and forgot he was a coach, Skiles is a teacher. Unlike Bill Cartwright, whose message never resonated, Skiles commands respect from his players. I just wonder if he'll need a straitjacket before general manager John Paxson raises the talent level high enough to help him.

"I don't get that discouraged,'' Skiles said. "I feel I have a good handle on who this team is and how it is made up. I know it's going to be a process. No question, some of our immaturity as a team shows up.''

The other day, Mad Pax took a potentially disastrous stand when he said he won't trade Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler and likely won't trade Crawford. It was the first indication he is committed to another two or three seasons of non-serious ball. If Paxson thought the pronouncement would inspire his kids to a crackling evening against the Pacers, the Eastern Conference's premier team, he was badly mistaken. They were overmatched from the second quarter on, leaving a Retro Night crowd to cheer a troupe of buffoons called "The Matadors,'' who wiggled their flab to all the disco-era hits.

''Stayin' Alive.''


''Boogie Wonderland.''

If we must deal with Steve Schanwald's sideshows while enduring the extension of an endless rebuilding plan, at least Skiles has shown he can elevate the performances of certain projects. Curry, for one, is good for 20 points a night now that Skiles has whipped him into shape. Kirk Hinrich, for another, can only benefit from the lessons of a former point guard who still holds the NBA record with 30 assists in a game, for which Skiles can thank Shaquille O'Neal. No one doubts his ability to tutor. What we doubt is the ticking bomb inside his head and how long he'll be able to swallow losing. Floyd was worn down, Cartwright was worn down. What is the realistic statute of limitations on Skiles?

"There are misconceptions out there,'' he said. "I don't understand where people get it that I'm not in control.''

Sure, Skiles gathered valuable perspective during his year-and-a-half of down time after being dumped by the Phoenix Suns. But don't tell me Skiles isn't the same S.O.B. competitor who refused to lose at Michigan State, once picked a fight with Shaq in practice and always played like the rebel rock star of his Indiana youth, John Cougar Mellencamp. From the days he led Plymouth High School to the state championship, he has expected to win. Even when he succeeded in Phoenix, reaching the second round of the playoffs in his second year, he admittedly was overbearing at times and managed to alienate his players. It's only natural to wonder if a lengthy period of failure will sour him on the Chicago experience.

Which is one reason why Paxson should reconsider the ongoing youth movement and think about breaking up the kids. Curry is destined to be a one-way player, a scorer who will break hearts when he tries to defend and rebound. "I won't tell you what I said at halftime about his defense,'' Skiles said. When you see a similarly destitute team, the Atlanta Hawks, trade Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff to Portland to free up megamillions in salary-cap room, you wonder if Paxson should make his own dynamic moves instead of subjecting these poor fans to more 60-loss seasons. Some of them still care, getting rowdy when the Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal took exception to an elbow in the second quarter and had to be restrained.

But by the fourth quarter, with the rout in progress, the same old boos started to fill the cavernous barn. Your extended garbage-time lineup: Ronald Dupree, Rick Brunson, Marcus Fizer, Eddie Robinson and Chandler. Six seasons and 300-plus losses since the dynasty was disbanded by the Jerrys, it's pathetic the fans are still watching a team that can't compete. In the final minutes, the only roars came when the filled bagel beat the chocolate doughnut in the Dunkin' Donuts race.

Skiles sat peacefully, hands clasped, a little dazed. Should the fans have booed? "Anytime anybody pays to get into a sporting event, I suppose they deserve to do what they want,'' he said.

The over-under on his blowup is March 1. Sadly, it's the only remaining drama in another lost season.

Jay Mariotti hosts a sports talk show weekdays on WMVP-AM (1000) from 9-11 a.m. and appears on ESPN's ''Around the Horn'' at 4 p.m. Send e-mail to inbox@suntimes.com with name, hometown and daytime phone number (letters run Sunday).

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