Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Scrooged: Scott Skiles Is Fired On Christmas Eve

Perhaps once again, the Chicago Bulls are making a case for observers to say that if you want to bet for an NBA champion, look no further than the west.

I like many others predicted that the Bulls would contend or own the eastern conference crown this year. Instead, they are floundering badly with no relief in sight. I always pegged their troubles the moment the team management tried to pry Kobe Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers. What they got instead was Ben Gordon and Luol Deng backing off from any contract negotiations and now they've lost their coach, Scott Skiles. So was Skiles at fault? Maybe just a bit because his team --now that Deng admits to the team bothered by all the trade talks -- never seemed to get into a groove or put together a streak. Even their foes noticed that the Bulls seemed mentally off. Where they once rallied they instead keeled over and died by 20 points or more. There was no fight in this team.

I pity Skiles because he tried his darn best. "Hardly a day goes by that I don't demand accountability and stress results," Skiles said a few hours after his being given the pink slip by GM John Paxson. "Today was my day to be held accountable." I'd blame Paxson and the players. When some of them didn't get the big money they thought they deserved, they pouted and played listlessly. But who do you trade -- the coach or the players? And what about Jerry Reinsdork? This is a man who said he'd trade all six of his Larry O'Brien trophies for one World Series title with the White Sox. Unfortunately too, we can fire the owner. But we can make him feel that he sucks. And that is something money cannot cover up or buy. Bulls management historically has not been kind to its coaches. After the Dick Motta era, they fired Jerry Sloan, Paul Westhead, Kevin Loughery, Stan Albeck, Doug Collins, and Bill Cartwright. And that's not counting the interim coaches in between and the resigned Floyd and the unsigned Phil Jackson who has made a name for himself in LA.

Yes, the timing sucks and is heartless. Isiah Thomas who has destroyed two franchises is still around while one of the hardest working coaches is banished on Christmas Eve. If you may recall, another former Bulls coach in Tim Floyd resigned on Christmas Eve too after all the pressure did him in.

In 2003-04, Skiles led the Bulls to a 19-47 record. The following year they made the play-offs with a 47-35 record. Remember that memorable Game 6 where Jannero Pargo caught fire and would not let the Bulls lose? Unfortunately, Gilbert Arenas ended the Bulls' run.

The following year they were back in the play-offs with an even 41-41 record and Miami killed them in the first round. Chicago earned payback last season as they raced to a 49-33 record and became the first team to oust a defending NBA champ in the first round. The team suffered a power failure against Detroit in the second round but they seemed poised and ready to finally ascend for the first time in the post-Michael Jordan era.

Instead there are no answers forthcoming. No sign even from across Lake Michigan. Skiles coached for the team he rooted as a kid despite growing up in Indiana. He never got to play for the Bulls but he quickly remade the team into his image... tough and feisty. Despite the unmerciful end, he still had good words for the team and the organization.

"This is a great organization to coach for," Skiles said. "John is great to work with, the training staff, the players, ownership. Everything is wrapped around the Bulls having success."

"I just wish we could have figured things out this season. I won't look at my time here as failure. But the endgame is."

And so we play another lost season.

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