ST. FRANCIS, Wisc. Just 12 hours or so after the Milwaukee Bucks' season had ended -- one coaches and players alike described most often with one word: "disappointing" -- Bucks coach Scott Skiles stood on the court of the team's practice facility, responding to questions about what to expect of his team next season and whether he'd even be there to see it.
On the latter, he was less than willing to divulge much information. When asked about his job status and whether he'd like to be back in Milwaukee, he explained that he hadn't met with owner Herb Kohl to discuss how last season had went and that it wasn't a great time to dicuss whether he'd like to remain as the Bucks coach.
"It's a disappointing season and I'm responsible," Skiles said. "I'm as responsible as anyone or more so. I think I deserve a few days to decompress though before I get into detail about it.
"This is a profession where you know you work at the pleasure of the owner, of the organization. There have been coaches that make the playoffs and are gone -- sometimes it's just the way it works out. We believe we should've been playing tomorrow and we're not, and that makes it a disappointing season."
It was a sentiment that was echoed by many of the Bucks players filtering through the Cousins Center all morning, reflecting on how close they came to earning the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- a spot, when all was said and done, that they missed by four games.
Bucks forward Larry Sanders says it felt even closer than that.
"It comes down to even plays," Sanders said, the disappointment obvious in his voice. "A couple plays away."
But in a year already more difficult due to the NBA lockout, as practice time was cut and the season shortened to 66 games, Milwaukee did its best to push for a spot with brand new pieces all over the court.
The midseason trade between the Warriors and Bucks that sent former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut to California and brought Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee forced the team to truly have to learn on the fly and adjust to new kinds of players in the lineup. At the center of that adjustment was a backcourt that now included two big-time scorers who like the ball in their hands -- Ellis and Brandon Jennings -- and after a decent sample size, Skiles says he thinks the duo could really learn to play off each other's strengths before next season.
"Considering the circumstances, they played really well together," Skiles said. "I'm pleased with that. ... Some more time together, a real training camp, eight exhibition games, different lineups, and they can't help but get better together, I think."
But will the Bucks, as a whole, be better next year, whether Skiles is there or not?
The consensus seems to be that Milwaukee won't make many waves without a true center in the middle of the lineup, as Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova -- both normally power forwards -- played the center position full-time after Bogut was traded. And without size on the perimeter and in the backcourt as well, the Bucks were obviously lacking on the court without a big man during the 2011-12 season.
It's a need that isn't lost on any of the players, either.
"We have to make some moves," forward Luc Mbah a Moute said. "I definitely think we need a center. That's a big issue we had all season, not having Bogut ... we suffered a lot. I don't know what's going to happen with our free agents, whether we sign them or not, but we're going to have to make some changes."
One thing that Milwaukee hopes doesn't change is the status of breakout forward Ersan Ilyasova, who came out of the woodwork to average 13 points and almost nine rebounds per game this past season. Ilyasova is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and considering the uncertainty going on within the Bucks' organization, there's no telling whether or not he'll be back for next season.
On Friday, however, Skiles made his intentions clear in regards to the Turkish forward.
"He knows, we made it very clear, Ersan is a big part of the team and we want him back," Skiles said.
And with Ilyasova back, along with a full offseason's worth of practice for Jennings and Ellis, and a new center to roam the middle, the Bucks could potentially make a leap next season. It's certainly something the players feel they're capable of as this season reaches its disappointing conclusion.
But until it's clear simply who will be in Milwaukee next season, those questions -- like so many others going into a soon-to-be active offseason -- will remain unanswered for now.
Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.