As anticipated, Bucks GM John Hammond announced today that the team would not offer interim head coach Jim Boylan a new contract and that the team would immediately begin a search for a new head coach. Boylan replaced then-head coach Scott Skiles on January 7 and compiled a 22-28 (.440) record with the Bucks, earning the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs virtually by default. The Bucks were swept by the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first-round, losing all four games by double-digits.
The move comes as little surprise, as the Bucks struggled tremendously near the end of the regular season and were plagued by recurring on- and off-court friction. Perhaps most striking was a report that guard J.J. Redick was essentially no longer speaking to his coach during the playoffs, which came just weeks after Boylan drew Brandon Jennings' ire for a benching in Philadelphia. Many of the same internal conflicts were alluded to under Skiles, but according to forward Luc Mbah a Moute, the change in leadership didn't translate to a change in culture:
"Even having Jim, it was still kind of like the Skiles era," Mbah a Moute said. "It was the same plays, same everything pretty much."
The search for Boylan's replacement now begins in earnest, and it certainly sounds as though the Bucks have been thinking about it for more than just a few hours. Rockets assistant and former Bucks coach Kelvin Sampson is perhaps the most frequently-mentioned name on the wire, having been a popular figure among players--especially Brandon Jennings--during his tenure with the Bucks. He figures to get some immediate attention from Milwaukee's front office, though he's not the only name on the Bucks' list:
While Sampson remains occupied with the Rockets' first round series against Oklahoma City, the Bobcats have already asked Houston permission for an interview. Other up-and-coming types associated with the search include high-profile assistants such as Indiana's Brian Shaw and Golden State's Mike Malone. For now, it appears the Bucks are keeping their options wide open, despite Sampson's supposed "front-runner" status.
Among the more proven candidates, Van Gundy's inclusion isn't surprising given his .641 career winning percentage and the Bucks' continued desire to be competitive year in and year out. But Van Gundy may be biding his time until more attractive jobs open up after the playoffs, and he certainly won't come cheaply. He reportedly didn't have any interest in the Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia jobs, and it's difficult to see why the Bucks would offer a significantly better opportunity next season. Needless to say, he's come a long way since being fired by Wisconsin following a disappointing 13-14 season in 1995.
Back in January, Van Gundy was predictably coy about the possibility of taking the Bucks' job in an interview with USA Today:
We've done our time in Wisconsin. We spent three years there [from 1992-95 when Van Gundy coached Wisconsin]. We loved Madison but when you've lived like this, and lived in Miami, I don't know that we're going back to winters. It's funny because my wife is from Vermont. But now, if it drops below 70 degrees, she's too cold.