Byron Scott is absolutely the right choice for the Lakers

July 26, 2014

Multiple reports have come out that Byron Scott has been offered the Lakers head coaching job and that the two sides are in negotiations regarding the terms of the contract.

The general feeling among a surprising amount of the public and media is that Scott is at worst a bad selection, and at best, a safe but uninspired choice. Even some of Scott’s proponents have offered only qualified support, suggesting he is a good choice “for now” because the Lakers are rebuilding and Scott has a good relationship with the aging Kobe Bryant. To these Scott “supporters” the Lakers should begin the search for their real coach of the future once the Lakers get marginally better or until after Kobe retires.

Such talk is not only disrespectful and insulting to Scott, it is based on total ignorance. Byron Scott’s record as a player and a coach make it clear that he does not deserve to be treated like anyone’s consolation prize.

To be fair, the Lakers are themselves partly to blame for this lukewarm reaction to the selection of Scott, as they left the former Laker hanging for months while they decided on their next coach.

The logic behind a slight delay made sense back when D’Antoni initially resigned…nearly three months ago. The Lakers had just come off of two poor coaching hires (Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni) that had cost the team dearly on the court and in the pocketbook. They needed to be more cautious and less impulsive.

Later, the Lakers allegedly believed that Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James might be enticed to sign with the franchise if they essentially got to pick the head coach. (If this is true it is a bit disturbing, as one could argue that offering a star player the right to pick the team’s coach might make the Lakers look less competent and more dysfunctional in the eyes of that same player.)

Despite this, early in the process the word was that Byron Scott was the favorite for the job. As the wait for his seemingly inevitable hiring dragged on, other candidates like Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry, and Kurt Rambis took other jobs because they believed Scott was the likely choice.

As more time passed it became clear that Lakers weren’t getting  Anthony or James, so the team interviewed Scott a third time…only to still hesitate to offer him the job.

Along the way the Lakers made every effort to downplay the importance of choosing any head coach at all, unwittingly suggesting they hardly imagined the next coach to be a potential difference maker.

But whether the public, the media, or even the team realizes it, Byron Scott is a difference maker. He is the best coaching hire the Lakers could possibly have made.


In 2000-2001, Byron Scott began his coaching career with a horrible New Jersey Nets team. The team went 26-56 in Scott’s first year. The next season, the Nets traded for PG Jason Kidd and Scott’s Nets would go to the NBA Finals the next two seasons, losing to the Lakers and Spurs respectively. Those two years the Nets won 52 and 49 games, the two winningest regular seasons in that franchise’s history.

However, in the 2003-2004 season, Scott was fired after the Nets started 22-20.

Did the Nets become a better team than the previous years after firing Scott? Not really. They followed up the two seasons of going to the NBA Finals with Scott to being bounced in the 2nd round without him.

In 2004-05, Scott began coaching the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets missed the playoffs his first three seasons as coach. During the majority of that time the Hornets were playing home games in Oklahoma City due to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

However, the rapid maturation of young PG Chris Paul helped turn things around quickly.

In 2008 New Orleans won 56 games (2nd best in the West) and Scott was named the 2008 NBA Coach of the Year. In 2009 the Hornets won 49 games but lost in the first round of the playoffs. (At this point his overall coaching record was .500.) Those two seasons remain the winningest seasons in New Orleans franchise history, and 2008 was more successful than any of the Hornets fourteen seasons in Charlotte as well.

The Hornets started the 2009-2010 season 3-6 and, in a move that angered star point guard Chris Paul, fired Scott.

Did the Hornets improve after they fired Scott? No, they failed to make the playoffs entirely that season.

Finally, Scott agreed to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers before the 2010-2011 season. Just days later, Lebron James took his talents to South Beach. Few seem to remember that Scott was taking a major step down in taking over a Lebron-less Cavs team and would undoubtedly have waited for a better job if he knew Lebron was bolting.

Unsurprisingly, the Cavs were horrible over the next three seasons, after which Scott was fired. Coaching a bad team in Cleveland, especially under Dan Gilbert, should not be viewed as indicative of Scott’s ability to coach in LA.

In fact, great coaches like Bill Fitch, Chuck Daly, and George Karl all lost in Cleveland before winning elsewhere. (In perhaps this one and only way Cleveland is like Las Vegas: What happens coaching in Cleveland stays in Cleveland.)

Scott’s critics point to his overall coaching record of 416-521 as evidence that he has failed as an NBA head coach. Yet none of them put the “evidence” in proper context.

Looking at coaching records alone can be deceiving for the obvious reason: a team’s actual on-court talent is the primary foundation for its success. Even a great coach can only do so much with a team that has limited talent, and a bad coach can still win with an exceptional team.

For example, coaching this year’s Lakers team to 40 wins would be more impressive than coaching this year’s Clippers to 55 wins. The Clippers superior talent justifies higher expectations.

None of Scott’s teams during his tenure as an NBA coach were all that talented, and a rational observer would realize that the Nets and Hornets at least, overachieved on his watch. Neither organization has ever been more successful than in the years Scott coached them and both did worse immediately after he left.

(Although last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers showed a slight improvement in the win-loss column after firing Scott the year before – something that might have been expected with the maturation of Kyrie Irving and Deon Waiters – they still failed to make the playoffs and crazy owner Dan Gilbert fired head coach Mike Brown anyway.)


It is clear that Scott is highly qualified to be the Lakers next head coach. But is he the right fit for this team?

Here are the five most important reasons why Byron Scott is the perfect choice:

1. The Lakers head coaching position is still too prestigious to go to any coach who will be learning on the job. Only proven winners should even be considered.

Scott has 13 years of head coaching experience, is a former NBA Coach of the Year, and is one of the very few active NBA coaches out there who has coached in multiple NBA Finals. (Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Doc Rivers, and Rick Carlisle.)

2. If the Lakers are going to surprise anyone next season, it might be because Jeremy Lin’s game takes a leap forward. Scott is exactly the right coach to determine if that’s possible.

Scott’s experience as a player has shaped his identity as a coach. He played with a team led by Magic Johnson, and thus strongly believes in letting the point guard lead on the floor. It is not an accident that Jason Kidd and Chris Paul had their best seasons under Scott.

3. With the loss of Pau Gasol (and Chris Kaman) the Lakers have a dearth of quality post players on offense. Still, the Lakers must return to a more conventional and balanced inside-out offense if they are going to have any long-term success.

Scott’s experience informs him that post play is not antithetical to an up-tempo offense – a big difference between him and former coach Mike D’Antoni. He played with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, and therefore knows firsthand the value of being able to dump the ball inside. Hopefully this means that Julius Randle will be given an opportunity to develop this part of his game.

4. Scott is a protégé of Pat Riley’s and espouses a similar "old-school" philosophy of coaching. This means a strong focus on discipline, toughness, and defense.

All of these qualities were sorely lacking on last year’s Lakers team. The 2013-14 Lakers played no defense, were the worst rebounding team in the league, and were only consistent in their inconsistency. Scott's mentality is what is needed to right the ship.

5. Scott won 3 NBA championships as a starter for the 80’s Showtime Lakers – the greatest team in NBA history. In 1996, Scott came back to the Lakers to play his final season and was Kobe Bryant’s mentor. Scott is also from Los Angeles and has never hidden the fact that coaching the Lakers is his dream job.

If the Lakers brand is to have any meaning, you have to hire people who actually believe in it. Scott does and his pride about being part of the Lakers tradition is something that come across immediately.

Scott is not a hired gun. He is at his core a Laker  and understands what this means. This matters. A lot. If you don't know why, you perhaps never will.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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