ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) — A trip to the playoffs wasn't enough to save Jim Boylan's job with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks announced Wednesday that Boylan won't be offered a new contract. Though Milwaukee made the playoffs for the first time in three years under Boylan, the decision was expected after the Bucks lost 12 of their last 16 games, finishing with their third straight losing season and eighth in nine years.
The Bucks were then swept by the Miami Heat in the opening round, losing all four games by double digits.
"You look at our season, we were kind of on track to be who and what we wanted to be," general manager John Hammond said. "We were in the playoff hunt, in good, solid position to be a playoff team. On March 19, I believe, we were two games over .500. From that point, things went south for us. Hard to pinpoint (why), exactly."
While Hammond said it would be ideal to have a coach in place by the time the Bucks begin putting together their roster, he wouldn't commit to having someone by a specific date. But he said the search has already begun — his phone started ringing immediately after Boylan's departure was announced.
Hammond also promised a broad search, saying it won't be limited to candidates with previous head coaching experience or defensive specialists.
"What we want to do is get it right, than limit ourselves to the kind of person we're going to hire," he said.
But the new coach will have to be able to communicate with his players. Former coach Scott Skiles, who parted ways with the Bucks on Jan. 8, is tough-minded and hard-nosed, and that approach rubbed many of his players the wrong way.
"In this day and age, it seems like you need that coach who can show the player he cares, and then coach the heck out of him after that," Hammond said.
Boylan was a longtime assistant under Skiles, and he stepped in after his old boss left. The Bucks won their first two games under Boylan and eight of his first 11, reaching a season-best five games above .500 on Jan. 29.
But Milwaukee couldn't sustain that success, dropping six of its next seven. Even a trade that brought J.J. Redick to Milwaukee couldn't stabilize the Bucks. After winning six of eight immediately following the trade, Milwaukee would win only six more games the rest of the season.
Boylan finished 22-32 with Milwaukee, including the playoffs.
"It was just funky," guard/forward Mike Dunleavy said earlier this week. "A lot of times, after you make a change, you get off to a hot start. Guys are more engaged for a few weeks and you win some games and go on a nice little streak. And then, after a little bit of time, reality sets in and unless you're going to come and work and get better every day, what we just did was fool's gold. It just didn't stick."
Said Hammond, "I think he tried to communicate with our guys and tried to work with our guys. I think he did the best he could possibly do."
After internal discussions, Hammond said a final decision on Boylan's fate was made Tuesday night. Boylan was informed Wednesday morning.
Hammond said he thinks "very highly" of Boylan, which didn't make his decision any easier. But, in some ways, there was no choice.
"This is a results-driven business," Hammond said. "We did have an ending that we were all concerned with, and it's what we do and we have to win in this business."
The number of free agents on Milwaukee's roster may have been a factor in Boylan's downfall, Hammond said. Dunleavy and Redick are unrestricted free agents, while Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent, meaning the Bucks can match any offer for him.
Monta Ellis has an $11 million player option that Hammond said he has until June 20 to exercise. While that kind of money would be hard to pass up, Ellis may be tempted if another team offers him a multi-year deal.
"Jim had a difficult time at different points in the season, and some it had to do with the roster. The number of free agents we had, that can be difficult," Hammond said, echoing the sentiment of several players earlier this week.
"I'm not disappointed in the job he did," Hammond added. "I think (a new coach) was a decision we had to make."
Milwaukee isn't the only team looking for a new coach — Detroit and Charlotte fired theirs after the regular season — but Hammond said the Bucks have several things that make them attractive.
"If you talk about the pieces we have, if you talk about our picks, if you talk about the 20-plus million we have in cap room, I think it's intriguing," Hammond said.
Larry Sanders made huge strides in his third season, more than doubling his scoring average (9.8 points) and grabbing more rebounds (672) than he had in his first two years combined. Rookie John Henson showed his potential with a monster game April 10 in Orlando, flirting with a triple-double with 25 rebounds, 17 points and seven blocks.
Ersan Ilyasova averaged a career-best 13.2 points and seven rebounds last season, while Luc Mbah a Moute has emerged as a standout defender.
"This thing surely is not broke right now if you look at some of the young pieces we have," Hammond said. "I think it's intriguing, and I think people are going to look at our roster and see an opportunity."
An opportunity to win, and win now.
"We want to be a team that's competitive each and every year," Hammond said, "a team that's a playoff-contending team."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.