Byron Scott is Not the Man for the Job

bs The Los Angeles Lakers recently hired Byron Scott as their latest head coach. This comes after the Mike D’Antoni era in LA — that lasted a little under two seasons and ended with his resignation. This is Scott’s fourth head coaching position — following stops with the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers. Prior to working the sidelines, Scott played 11 seasons with the Lakers and averaged 15 points. He made up half of the Showtime back court alongside Magic Johnson that won three championships in the mid and late ’80’s. VP of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak have done a good job hiring a guy who “knows what it means to be a Laker,” which seems to be important to them. They also succeeded in hiring a guy loved by long time Lakers fans, so this means everything will trend skyward as they recover from an out-of-character 27-win season, right? No. This pairing is not a sure thing, and Byron Scott will become the third straight non-interim Laker coach scooped off the scrap heap filled with other team’s throwaways.

The last two LA coaches weren’t home-run hires. Mike Brown led the Lakers to a solid-at-best status. D’Antoni produced two disappointing seasons and often displayed a lack of understanding of how to properly use his players. Scott will try to pick up the purple and gold pieces that have fallen off over the last two or so seasons, but if his simple coaching stats are any indication, he’ll only be helping more pieces of armor drop in LA. During his first job as a head coach in New Jersey, he led the Nets to a .517 win percentage over three and a half seasons. He also took the team to the Finals in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003 — albeit discarding a sub-par Eastern Conference.

His second job came in New Orleans — where the Hornets had a .484 winning percentage during his stint lasting a little over five years. In this time, New Orleans made the playoffs only twice and obtained just a single series win. Scott’s most recent job was in Cleveland just as the initial LeBron James era was ending. The Cavs won less than 28 percent of their games in his three seasons at the helm. It should go without saying that the failed to make the playoffs all three years. Considering his one loss record, Scott is getting worse as a coach with each new job. It would be harsh to blame him for all of the misfortunes of his former teams. The rosters he’s worked with weren’t spectacular, but this kind of trend is not exactly what you want your shiny new hire to be currently attached to if you’re the Lakers.

Let’s say there was a doctor who has performed heart surgery on three patients. The first patient went on to live a regular life aside from having to take tons of medication everyday; the second patient often experienced irregular heartbeats; the third patient died within days after the surgery. Perhaps differing existing health problems contributed to the fate of these patients, but you would be skeptical knowing this info about that doctor operating right?

Buss and Kupchak, however, do not appear to be skeptical about Scott’s coaching record, but despite taking the chance, I don’t think the Lakers were exactly itching to hire him. There was a long gap between the time the the front office initially targeted Scott, and when they finally interviewed and subsequently hired Scott. You get the sense they really thought about if they really wanted to bring him in or not.

That’s not a good sign if true.

Coaching hires are not something to take lightly, and should be made with total confidence in the choice. A large factor in the eventual hire is Kobe Bryant’s backing of the idea of Scott as his coach. The two have a personalBRYANT SCOTT relationship as they were teammates during Kobe’s rookie year.

That’s another bad sign.

Kobe’s coaching wish list should not be a top priory. That was not a slight at Kobe; he’s one of the three of four greatest players in franchise history, but at this point in his career, his coaching nominations shouldn’t matter as they would have in the past.

He’s 18 seasons in and will probably not be around after two years, so is Scott just the coach they want as Kobe plays out the string? Why would they sign him to a four-year deal if that’s the case? This coaching hire shouldn’t have been about about Kobe; it should have been about the future. It should have been about the coach they want for the next five years and beyond.

The conclusion to Kobe’s career will likely consist of Laker-reconstruction and minimal winning, so hiring this kind of coach seems pointless. The roster that lies before Scott won’t do him any favors on paper in trying to reverse his descending win-percentage spiral. The current roster isn’t too much different than last season. It consists of a talented cast of players, but many of them aging or not very multidimensional. It’s realistic that they will be better than awful, but it is also unrealistic that they can be a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Bottom line, this is an un-ideal group of guys, and Scott has shown that he needs an ideal group to be successful.

He hasn’t shown he can improve just any ol’ squad led by him.

Defense has also been a recent issue with Scott. During Scott’s tenure in Cleveland, the Cavs had one of the worst four defensive ratings in each of the three seasons he was in charge. It’s feasible that ratings like that could follow him into LA. The roster contains the likes of notorious non-defenders in Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer as well as Kobe, who’s most recent sample of work indicates that he has discontinued his defensive prowess. It will be hard to whip this team into defensive shape, despite Scott’s intent to focus on defense.

Buss and Kupchak are not 100 percent committed to a particular direction they want to steer the purple and gold ship. They know they need to rebuild, but they want to win now as well. They’ll have expectations that are too high, and they’ll be caught off guard by the  continued losing — which means Scott will be branded the scapegoat and handed the pink slip at some point. The right thing the for the Lakers to do would have been to hire an up-and-coming-coach that can grow as the organization tries to climb back to the top of the NBA mountain. Instead, they chose a coach whom may have peaked and better suited to lead a finished product.

Book it that Scott will ultimately be just the latest Laker coach earning checks from the team after his employment.


14 Responses to “Byron Scott is Not the Man for the Job”

  1. TheLastPoet says:

    When I’m thinking rationally, I agree with you 100%. But when I’m thinking as a fan – a basketball fan, not a Lakers fan – I’m anxious to see if a Byron-Kobe collabo can actually work lol! Admittedly, my curiosity is more about Kobe than Byron. How great is this dude? Is he great enough to lead a bunch of cast offs to the playoffs? He’s done it before, of course, but he’s 172 years old now. So let’s see .. For his part, Byron has shown an ability to cater an offensive scheme toward a singularly talented player and achieve success. Jason Kidd and Chris Paul come to mind (to be fair, he didn’t have any talent in Cleveland – and yes I’m including Kyrie, who is talented but not the leader or the committed defender that the aforementioned players are). So for these reasons I’m willing to give this pairing a chance, but I’m fully prepared to admit that we may be looking at a train wreck waiting to happen!

  2. Stacko says:

    So who should they have hired instead? Who would do better than Byron Scott? No one, that’s who.

  3. TheLastPoet says:

    Sorry, my two posts are meant to be read together. But, for some reason, I have lots of trouble posting comments to the site from my phone ..

  4. Consolidated Poet. I’ll check on that brother.

  5. DN says:

    I also was concerned it took this long to make the decision. I also dont think there was anyone else out there. I have mixed feelings about how much a coach matters. *ducks thrown rocks

  6. Michelle says:

    Good read!!!

  7. Thanks for reading guys. I would have liked them to have picked a younger assistant maybe to put on the sidelines.

  8. Bobby Weaver says:

    Like who?

  9. A number of assistants who’ve been in those ranks for a while. Sam Cassell, for instance. I just feel, getting a coach like Scott kind of raises the expectations too high for their current situation. They should take this time for experimenting.

  10. Bobby Weaver says:

    Sam Cassell? To take over the LAKERS as his first head coaching job? Are you crazy? I liked Sam Cassell as a player but you can’t just slide into the most important coaching job in the NBA with zero head coaching experience – the city would exile all the Buss kids to their compound on Kaua’i forever if they ever pulled a stunt like that.

    Experimenting? With your head coach? This isn’t the Atlanta Hawks. The Lakers are the most prestigious, successful franchise in the league. They’ve been down for too long. The Buss family don’t have time to dick around with experiments. The city & the old heads wouldn’t allow it.

    And how does hiring Scott raise expectations any higher than they already are? It’s the Lakers, expectations are always stratospheric. Great dynasties WANT expectations high. Expectations were through the roof BEFORE they even thought about hiring Scott. That’s why they left the job vacant, I case Doc left the Clippers.

    The Buss family knows you don’t get creative when hiring a head coach when you’re running the most successful team ever and you’ve been down for this long. Just ask the Glazers how that strategy worked out for them. Not too good.

    I couldn’t disagree any more with the premise of your story.

  11. mapoui says:

    Nice lead article.

    I really like this site when its popping. reading the comments is very solid, enjoyable

  12. I’m not so sure that the Lakers’ head coaching job is the most important one in the league right now. They are in slight dysfunction at the moment if you haven’t noticed.

    You say that Cassell has no head coaching experience. Well neither did Pat Riley when he became the Lakers head coach. Mike D’Antoni did, however.

    Cassell was merely and example anyway.

    You called the Lakers “prestigious” and “successful.” They are neither at this very moment. So it wouldn’t hurt for them to experiment as they try to rise back up.

    Putting Byron Scott in place isn’t going to magically transform the Lakers back into a contender. The sub-par roster is what brings down expectations, but Scott is a coach that is that is more suited for a team ready to win now. Hiring him makes it appear that you want to win now, which raises team expectations that would other wise be extremely low because of the group of players.

    The Busses need to realize that they can’t just plug in a guy they’re familiar with and see automatic results.

  13. Bobby Weaver says:

    How are the Lakers dysfunctional? They’re not very good on the court right now but dysfunctional? They’ve been owned and run by the same family for decades. The current GM has presided over 5 titles, the last one in 2010. And who knows what would have happened if the league didn’t wrongly void the CP3 deal. They tried to hire Doc this summer. Dysfunction? Nah. Try the Knicks, 76’ers, Nets, Houston, Wolves, Bobcats, Bucks and half the other teams in the NBA for dysfunction. And how about the #1 dysfunctional teams of them all? The Clippers.

    As for the Lakers HC job not being important, I’ll concede that point, as long as you’re willing to concede: that the most significant coaching hires this summer were for the Knicks and the Lakers; that the Lakers are the most valuable sports franchise in the league and would go for more than some NFL franchises; that they have 16 titles, scores of HOF alumni and the most lucrative local media deal in the league next to the Knicks; that they’re the most popular NBA team in the world by a wide margin; that they have the largest and most rabid local fanbases in the league next to the Knicks.

    As for your point about expectations, I guess I just don’t get it. Are you talking about expectations of the fans? Or the players? Either way, if the Buss family hired some first timer like Kidd or some small timer like Moyes, the city would kill them even more than they’re killing them now. Managing expectations at a franchise like the Lakers is a non-starter. Scott won’t win a title next year, but hiring some tyro would be begging for a disaster.

  14. You have to remember that the late Jerry Buss was the head of everything during the Laker’s highest points. Ever since he got sick and eventually passed, the team hasn’t had quite the same muscle.

    I think most rational people from all point of views understand the team is rebuilding. Are fans looking at this team and expecting success as if they have West/Baylor/Wilt, Magic/Kareem/Worthy or Shaq/Kobe suiting up for them this coming season?

    I understand the historical value of this franchise, but their current state does not correspond with the storied past.