IU COACHING CANDIDATE: Scott Skiles

Former Michigan State star has spent his entire coaching career at the pro level, but his ties to Indiana and Bloomington might have him interested in the IU position. So what makes him a viable candidate for the IU vacancy? What makes him a long shot? HoosierNation.com has the answers...

Scott Skiles is in need of a job, and Indiana might have one to offer.

Two years ago, the Chicago Bulls' head coach and former Michigan State star was talked about as a potential replacement for Mike Davis because he's a native of LaPorte, Ind., and was a regular around Bloomington because his ex-wife and three children live in town. If he had any thoughts of coaching at the collegiate level, what better opportunity was there than IU, where he could be around his three children on a daily basis?

Now that Kelvin Sampson is out after less than two seasons in Bloomington, Skiles is once again mentioned as a possibility for those same reasons. But this time around there isn't a lucrative NBA contract standing in the way. Skiles was fired midway through his fifth season in Chicago after the Bulls got off to a 9-16 start in a season that many picked them to compete for the Eastern Conference championship. It brought an end to a four-plus year run that included a 165-172 mark and three playoff appearances.

He's been unemployed since December, and his high school coach told the NWI Times in February that Skiles might be interested in getting involved in the college game.

"I thought Scott was a (NBA) lifer. But in the past, he had an interest in coaching at either a major college or in the pros," said Jack Edison, Skiles' high school coach at Plymouth. "Boy, I think he'd be a perfect fit at Indiana. He'd be great at it, a great recruiter."

Of course, Edison's thoughts on Skiles' recruiting abilities is only speculation because he's never done it before. He began his coaching career overseas in Greece and then spent two years on Danny Ainge's Phoenix Suns' staff. After Ainge resigned 20 games into the 1999-00 season Skiles took over and led the Suns to playoff berths in both 2000 and 2001. He was let go after a 25-26 start to the 2001-02 season, and eventually landed in Chicago in 2003.

But Skiles is no stranger to Indiana or Big Ten basketball. Skiles starred at Plymouth (Ind.) H.S., leading the 900-student school to an improbable state championship in 1982. Plymouth topped Indianapolis Cathedral by three and Gary Roosevelt by one in double-overtime in the state finals, with Skiles leading the way with 30 and 39 points, respectively.

Passed over by IU, Purdue and Notre Dame, Skiles went to Michigan State and starred for Coach Jud Heathcote. Skiles finished his career as the Spartans' all-time leading scorer (2,145 points) and earned Big Ten Player of the Year and All-America honors as a senior after averaging 27.4 points/game.

Next up was the NBA, where Skiles spent 10 years playing for five different teams. He averaged 11.1 points and 6.5 assists during his career, and still holds the NBA single-game assist record with 30 against Orlando in 1990.

What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: He's considered a straight-forward, hard-nosed disciplinarian at the NBA level, someone who has had success turning around the fortunes of both Phoenix and Chicago. It's an authoritarian approach that some think wears thin after awhile on well-to-do NBA players, but it could be a much better fit at the collegiate level where players are more tolerant of task-master types. His Indiana roots and his ties to Bloomington would also be an intriguing draw for him as he tries to figure out what his next step is in the coaching profession. While his lack of college coaching experience is a negative, it hasn't kept the likes of Pete Carroll from having tremendous success at USC in football. If IU had been interested two years ago, one of the major obstacles would have been Skiles' recently signed four-year, $16.5 million deal that they weren't about to compete with. Now that Skiles is without a job, Indiana doesn't have to worry about trying to compete with an NBA coaching salary.

What Makes Him a Longshot: The 43-year-old Skiles isn't all warm and fuzzy, and with eight years in the NBA, he might view the college game as a step backward. That wouldn't be well received by IU fans. In addition, Indiana desperately needs to find a coach who can provide some stability, and IU decision makers would have to wonder how long he'd be looking to remain on the job. He's been rumored as a potential replacement for Pat Riley in Miami, and even if he doesn't pursue another NBA job this off-season, he'd likely be a rumored candidate in the future if he's enjoying success in Bloomington. The appeal of being around his children would likely keep him in town right now, but what happens when they've graduated high school – will the lure of coaching at IU be enough to keep him from being tempted to return to the NBA?

HoosierNation.com's Take: If Indiana is going to consider Skiles, he'll first have to convince IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan that he's ready to close the book on the NBA and make the college game his permanent home. If Skiles simply views the IU job as a good one considering his circumstances – out of work in the NBA and his children live in town – then he's not a good fit. That would suggest that when his circumstances changed, he'd be open to heading elsewhere. That's not what IU needs – it needs a coach who is interested in coaching this program for at least 10 years.

But if Skiles is ready to give the college game a try, he could be an intriguing candidate. His coaching style might be a better fit for college kids, and he'd have plenty of respect on the recruiting trails due to his NBA background. He's also known as someone who demands that his teams play hard on both ends of the floor, something that IU fans would appreciate.

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