Let this be a lesson for the next wave of coaches out there. Dictators without championship rings on their fingers don't last in the NBA.
Scott Skiles became the umpteenth example that the coach-is-god style of leadership doesn't work.
He was a good coach. He understood how the game should be played, and his emphasis on defense and effort was certainly refreshing in a league that thrives on style. But Skiles, like so many egotistical coaches out there, never grasped the fact that he isn't the reason they win.
This is a players' league. Coaches are even behind general managers on the totem pole of importance. Executives accumulate the pieces, and the coaches put them together. But the players make it happen, and it's their talent that brings the fans. Of course, players know this and have no problem flexing their power.
All a coach can do, really, is get his players to go all out, to maximize their talent. His method has to be easy to swallow if he doesn't have championship credentials behind his voice. Skiles' greatest accomplishment to date was dishing a record 30 assists in a game.
His firing by the Chicago Bulls on Monday had been in the making for a while. You could see it coming with the headband incident involving center Ben Wallace last season. Remember when Wallace wore his headband, knowingly against team rules? That was no doubt a protest against a dictator coach.
You could see it coming with Skiles' handling of Tyrus Thomas' oral diarrhea during the 2007 All-Star Game, when Thomas said he was doing the dunk contest for the money. Remember Skiles' response? "You can be honest with the media and not guarded all the time if you have something bright to say."
That was not a vote of confidence for Thomas, then a rookie.
Skiles' brutal honesty and high standards wear on players. Veterans don't like being ridden. Youngsters can lose confidence.
Wallace joined ousted veteran forwards P.J. Brown, Joe Smith and Tim Thomas as members of the Tired of Skiles fan club.
Tyrus Thomas, second-year forward Thabo Sefalosha and point guard Kirk Hinrich-all promising talents just months ago-are now struggling mightily for the 9-16 Bulls. They are lacking in the confidence department, something a hard-nose, blunt-mouthed coach doesn't help.
Fair or not, most players have to be massaged and handled. Coaches have to juggle personalities and coddle-whatever it takes to get your players to run through a brick wall. Unless you're Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich, a proven voice that carries weight. Skiles is not.
To be sure, Bulls general manager John Paxson is just as responsible for the team's sudden demise as Skiles, if not more. Paxson was the one who gave up on Tyson Chandler, only to bring in the older and more-expensive Wallace. Chandler is averaging 11.5 points (on 59.2 percent shooting) and 11.9 rebounds per game for the New Orleans Hornets this season. Wallace is averaging 4.3 points (on 32.8 percent shooting) and 8.5 rebounds per game.
It was Paxson who walked away from the 2006 draft with Tyrus Thomas and Sefalosha instead of forward LaMarcus Aldridge or guard Brandon Roy, who are leading the resurgent Portland Trail Blazers this season.
Still, Skiles drew up his own pink slip by losing his locker room. He alienated his team to the point that they stopped going all out for him-which makes him useless in the locker room.
If Paxson heard all praise and support for Skiles from the Bulls locker room, Skiles would be preparing for tonight's game at San Antonio.
Instead, Skiles, who led Chicago to three straight trips to the playoffs, is out of a job.
Instead, the Bulls have limped out of the blocks with an obvious lack of commitment and inability to adjust to expectations.
That falls on Skiles. To his credit, he admitted as much.
"Hardly a day goes by that I don't demand accountability and stress results," Skiles said after his firing. "Today was my day to be held accountable."
Dictator coaches, beware.