Much ado has been made of Stephen Jackson’s resurrection in San Antonio during the playoffs. He’s averaging 7.2 points on 50% shooting in 20 minutes per game. A stark contrast to the brutal numbers he produced while languishing in Milwaukee earlier this season. A relationship that started with what seemed like so much potential, with so many good feelings on both sides, burned out in just over a months time in Milwaukee.
In yet another terrific piece at Grantland by Jonathan Abrams (this guy is one of the top five basketball writers out there right now, always amazing stuff from him), Jackson speaks on his time with Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks.
“To me, he was more of a college coach,” Jackson said of Skiles. “Me, personally, I need a coach that I can respect, that’s proven in this league and doesn’t mind taking advice from his players. When you have a great coach like Gregg Popovich, who asks about our opinion and cares about how we feel and what we think and what goes on off the court and at home, it’s easy to play for those guys because you know they genuinely care. He was a young coach, a coach that really hasn’t proven himself in this league as far as winning, so I saw a lot of things that I didn’t agree with that he was doing and we were losing at the time, so we never could work together.”
According to Abrams, Skiles, when given the opportunity to respond, simply said he is “happy for Stephen” and that he “respected him as a competitor.”
I find myself looking to take shots at Jackson every so often. I’m bitter and sullen about what went down in Milwaukee. But when I take my shots, they’re usually half-hearted. I can’t find much to back them up with. Yeah, he struggled and it seemed like he was a bad influence on Brandon Jennings for a while, but I just can’t bring myself to blame him for everything. It really didn’t seem like Skiles had much give with him. My access to Scott Skiles’ brain and time not spent with the media is zero, but what I’ve gathered about him doesn’t seem like a great fit for Jackson.
He’s not a nurturer. And while you may think that Gregg Popovich isn’t either, it’s clear that Pop can walk the line between coach and psychiatrist with some degree of expertise. He wouldn’t have been as successful as he has been if he couldn’t. Jackson needs a coach that’s going to listen to him and engage him. Skiles has never seemed the type. Skiles is by all accounts a very fair man – it’s always been said that he treats every guy on the team the same way.
Stephen Jackson needs more than that. He needs the coach’s ear. He needs to be heard and to be valued.
Hindsight is 20/20 and tells us that this relationship was doomed before it ever got off the ground. The two are both too proud and neither flinched when things started to take a turn for the worse in January. Whether that’s something Skiles will take into mind going forward and whether it will change how he deals with players in the future is a mystery, but I get the feeling that as long as Skiles is the Bucks coach, it might make an impact on just what sort of players they’ll target.
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Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com.