On the surface, Byron Scott makes sense as the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Scott grew up in Inglewood, played 11 combined years with the Lakers and reportedly has a positive rapport with aging superstar Kobe Bryant.
All that said, the at-times laughable interview process should open fans’ eyes to potential holes in his resume. Why else would the Lakers have requested so many interviews for someone who appeared to be the leading candidate throughout the hiring process?
The unfortunate reality is a discord through the Lakers’ front office that seems to grow with every quote Jeannie and Jimmy Buss make about their differences being set aside. Their head-butting is inordinately well-documented dating back to their choice of Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson in November 2012.
Then, to double down on a bad bet, they elected to keep D’Antoni despite then-free-agent Dwight Howard’s threats of departure should they choose to bring him back.
When D’Antoni’s reign mercifully ended in June, reports came out that the Lakers would open their search to a wide variety of candidates. First-time NBA head coaches like Kevin Ollie, Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher were heard alongside Scott, Lionel Hollins and other more experienced candidates.
Ollie hardly considered the Lakers’ offer, the Golden State Warriors hired Kerr, Fisher took his talents to Broadway to coach the New York Knicks and Hollins elected to coach the Brooklyn Nets. While they all received interest from the Lakers, none believed they were ever seriously considered.
If that is all true, wouldn’t it make sense to think of Scott as the only coach ever seriously considered? The Lakers reportedly told superstar free agents LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony they could have their choice of head coach should they come to Los Angeles; though neither James or Anthony ever seriously considered playing alongside Bryant for an organization in such disarray.
It makes sense as a pitch to today’s particularly choosey NBA elite; but when James and Anthony made their decisions why didn’t the Lakers immediately move to hire Scott? Instead, they called him in for seemingly his umpteenth interview that ended without an offer.
Their choice to wait seems fairly harmless, but it still took away that much time that could have been spent establishing whichever direction Scott chooses for the upcoming season. Only a few weeks may have passed, but in that time rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson got their first taste of NBA action. More would have undoubtedly been gained had they done so with their head coach.
Had the Lakers decided after their several interviews with Scott to go in a different direction, the wait would have made sense. Only there, on general manager Mitch Kupchak’s desk overlooking the El Segundo practice facility, sits a contract worth $17 million over four years freshly signed by Scott Monday evening.
There were quotes of “defense,” “growth” and “Lakers family” Tuesday morning at Scott’s introductory press conference. He answered questions about how best to squeeze every drop of Bryant and Steve Nash’s withering careers and how to nurture Randle’s potentially bright future. The most crucial questions, however, shouldn’t be for the new head coach. They need to be aimed higher.
The history of sports has taught fans one thing over anything else: a bad owner is nearly impossible to overcome (see Sterling, Donald). Here’s a question for Laker fans: Can the franchise move on, or will this coaching search be another history lesson?