Can the Skiles effect be denied?

If there’s one beef I have with the book Stumbling on Wins, its the section on the effect basketball coaches have on their teams.  (BTW, will somebody who has purchased a book from please do me a favor and cut and paste my review in the post below in the book’s review section?  I’d appreciate it.)

While I agree that coaches have little positive impact on the statistical production of players, I think they can have an impact on the team’s ability to limit the statistical production of the opponent players, loosely refered to as defense.

I really don’t think there can be a debate about the effect Coach Scott Skiles has on basketball teams, and the impact he has made on the Milwaukee Bucks defense.

When I wrote the series of posts I invite you to click to at the end of this sentence, the Milwaukee Bucks were an organization that had just finished one of the worst seasons in the franchise history, particularly on defense, where the team ranked dead last in the NBA.  (you can see my old posts here, here, and I absolutely love the blurb that was posted at the time on Brew Hoop here).  The Bucks were so ridiculously and frustratingly bad on defense it almost turned me against the team for good.  As I chronicled at the time, the Bucks had not had one season in which they even finished in the top half of the NBA in defense since 1991!!!!  Before the Internet was… well before it was generally known.  And 17 of those 20 no-defense seasons were spent in the bottom 10 of the NBA.  It was so ugly for so long.  Then came Skiles.

As you can read, at that time, in that valley of basketball despair (and a lot of the loyal Antlerhead readers were there with me as I recall), I wrote — not unlike a basketball blog version of John the Baptist (hey, its Easter) — that the sorry times were ending.  That help had arrived.  That the Bucks would soon be amongst the better defensive teams in the entire NBA.  I wrote that shit at the nadir of a generation of bad defensive basketball. 

Everything I wrote has come to pass.  The Milwaukee Bucks are currently fourth in the NBA in defensive rating.  In two short seasons, Skiles has worked his magic once again.   The team’s defensive efficiency average has dropped from 112.8 in 2008 to 102.9 in 2010.  Absorb that statistic.  Ten points per 100 possessions less in two short seasons.

I’m no soothsayer.  The record was so clear, and so undeniable.  When Scott Skiles comes to town, any town, defense comes with him.  That’s all I said.  And it did.  And I knew what  I wrote was right after I watched his now legendary “I don’t seek confrontations, but I don’t shy away from them either” interview with Denis Krause.  I’m going to offend some Packer fans, but during the interview Skiles was so riveting I would say he was almost Lombardiesque.  Almost. 

The bottom line is, as I write this post from a much happier place in so many ways I can once again proudly display my 1969 vintage Milwaukee Bucks pennant in my office, because better times have arrived.  As I sit here getting ready to get my ass out the door, the Milwaukee Bucks are relevant again.

And defense is the reason why.  Their offensive efficiency is exactly the same as it was two years ago, backing up Prof. Berri’s point, but their defense is light years better, backing up mine. 

If there is no Skiles Effect, then basketballs are not round.


3 Responses to “Can the Skiles effect be denied?”

  1. brgulker Says:

    There has to be a way to track individual contributions to team defense statistically. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but there’s got to be one.

    • tywill33 Says:

      can you email me at You have a book coming to you, but I need to confirm.

      You have it coming to you because you showed a genuine interest in Marginal Win Score, and obviously Berri’s work. And youre a friend of this ever shifting blog.

      Thanks, and be patient with me.

    • tywill33 Says:

      Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to sit down with a local IT company that I do work for. I’m going to bring them a proposal for a program that will simply do this: provide reverse statistics.

      In other words, give me the statistical averages compiled by opposition point guards while Brandon Jennings is on the court.

      Yes, its not fair in some ways, but I think it would be informative, but the communist “everyone gets credit and blame” system that is in wide use is not fair either.

      I’ll keep you posted on any progress.

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