The Los Angeles Lakers announced yesterday night that they would not pick up the option for the 2016-2017 season on the contract for Head Coach Byron Scott.
While many were under the impression this next season, which would have been Scott's third coaching the team, was a guaranteed year, it was not. Scott was in fact required to meet certain goals set by the team which were not met, thus making it an option year instead.
"We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time," said General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers have indicated that their search for a new head coach will begin immediately.
Yeah, good luck with that.
Certainly once again we can expect a number of ignorant Lakers "fans" to gleefully claim that everything is looking rosy and a title is soon on the way because the main obstacle to success - a supposedly bumbling coach - is now gone.
Give me a break.
Here we go again. Mike Brown. Mike D'Antoni. Byron Scott. When will it end?
The Jim Buss-led coaching decisions by the Lakers are arguably the all-time worst in sports. Let's do a little recap.
Since the arrival of Phil Jackson to the Lakers to start the 1999-2000 season, the Lakers have had four different coaches other than the Zen Master. Lakers Head of Basketball Operations, the eminently unqualified Jim Buss, has been the primary decision-maker on all of those choices. What are the results?
From 1999-2004, Phil Jackson coached the Lakers to 3 NBA Championships (2000-2002). In the other two years the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals (2004), and the Western Conference Finals (2003).
He was largely pushed out by the eager Jim Buss, then still not officially in charge but very influential in the decision-making regarding the coaching. The younger Buss pushed his father Jerry to sign Rudy Tomjanovich, former head coach of the Houston Rockets.
Tomjanovich ended up resigning midseason and assistant coach Frank Hamblen ended up taking over. The Lakers finished 34-48 and missed the 2005 playoffs. It was only the second time they had missed the postseason in 29 years.
Phil Jackson returned as head coach for the 2005-2006 season. He coached the Lakers for another six years. During that time, the Lakers made the playoffs every year, went to the NBA Finals three times, and won the NBA Championship twice (2009, 2010).
Jim Buss, to nearly everyone's surprise, chose Mike Brown to lead the Lakers prior to the 2011-2012 season. After the Lakers lost in the second round of the 2012 playoffs, Brown was fired at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season.
The Lakers then hired Mike D'Antoni. In the process they embarrassingly spurned Phil Jackson, who had made it clear he was ready to coach the team again.
The Lakers finished an underachieving 45-37 and were swept out of the 1st round of the 2013 playoffs. In 2014, they finished with the worst record in LA Lakers history at the time, 27-55. The final year of D'Antoni's contract was subsequently bought out and Byron Scott was hired.
In 2015, the Lakers again had the worst record in team history, this time going 21-61. Finally, this past year the Lakers went 17-65, again lowering the record for worst season in franchise history.
What gives anyone hope that Lakers management will pick the right guy this time?
The really sad thing about this history of failure is that every time the coach himself has been blamed for the problem - and every time it has been largely unfair. Oh sure, each coach made mistakes and could be validly criticized for them. But those mistakes were hardly the real reason the team never succeeded.
To start with, no Lakers coach other than Phil Jackson has been able to have any control over Kobe Bryant, the player the Lakers handed the franchise over to many years ago. And remember, even the legendary Jackson had pleaded to be rid of the "uncoachable" Bryant at times over the years. How many coaches could realistically match Jackson's unique combination of credibility, will, and cleverness to impact Kobe?
Essentially, it has always seemed like Kobe did mostly whatever he wanted, and this factor at least doubled when Jackson wasn't coaching him. That was perhaps tolerable when Kobe was in his prime...and for his one final night when he went for 60...but otherwise it was all but impossible to get other guys to buy into a system or to build a "team-first" mentality in the presence of such a giant individualist.
The Lakers management basically already decided that these last three years would be treated as Kobe's glory time rather than a serious opportunity to rebuild for the future. Instead of asking Kobe to play a complimentary role, they chose to make him the centerpiece. They picked Byron Scott, in part, because Kobe liked him.
Is ineptitude truly a surprise when your centerpiece is an aging superstar who rapidly was devolving into the most inefficient player in the NBA? How many coaches can win around that?
Of course it also doesn't help to blame the coaches when you give them rosters that don't fit their particular style.
For example, was it a wise move to choose a run-and-gun coach like Mike D'Antoni when you had an older, slower team (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant) with premiere post players (Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard)? Obviously not.
Did it make sense to hire Byron Scott, an old school tough-love coach, and then surround him with almost exclusively young and immature players? What were you expecting with that mix? Certainly not a hand-holding personality who would coddle to the egos of unproven players.
If you pick Byron Scott to coach you only have two options -- if you really want to succeed eventually. You either surround yourself with real veteran talent so he doesn't have to deal with such immaturity, or you let him be hard on the younger players and back up his tough love approach. Since the Lakers clearly were not committed to either of those options it begs the question: Why hire him in the first place?
So let all of the sheep celebrate this latest development as if some great transformation has now taken place that will open the floodgates of winning.
These same folks have been predicting playoff runs and titles throughout the disastrous end to the Kobe Bryant era. They are the same people who screamed the Lakers would be even better if they just gave Kobe the ball more and let him decide everything. That if only Mike Brown was fired...if only MIke D'Antoni was fired...and most recently, if only Byron Scott was fired.
Well, you got your wish. Start the parade!
But we shouldn't be too hard on them. After all, these people have difficulty understanding the basic concept that a team without much talent, and with that little talent being young talent, is almost certainly going to stink regardless of the coach.
Personally, I think the Lakers organization largely knew the team was going to be awful in Kobe's final years, and Byron Scott was set up to be the scapegoat all along. He was going to be tossed as soon as Kobe left whether he knew it or not.
But let's be clear. The Lakers have set franchise highs in losses each of the past three years. Why? Because each successive year they put out onto the basketball court the three least talented and most unproven Lakers rosters ever assembled by this once-proud franchise. It is scarcely more complicated than that.
Who put those atrocious rosters together? Who missed on every star free agent and didn't even make a serious effort for mid-level ones? Thanks, Jim Buss.
So let's just add Byron Scott to the long list of coaches and reserve players who have been blamed for the degradation of the Lakers tradition.
But to make nice with the mainstream media and the least informed part of the Lakers fanbase, make sure not to remind them that the Holy 24 and Lakers management had anything to do with that.
By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com