Byron Scott enters the 2014-15 season as the third head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in roughly as many years. Their record in that span, 113-117, is very nearly the definition of mediocrity. In order to right that ship, the Lakers will have to show patience with Scott to let him lay the foundation of a lasting system and build up from there.
Here’s a list of teams to win an NBA Championship in the last decade: San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Lakers, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons. You know what they all have in common? Each team’s coach had been there at least two years. Outside of Larry Brown (Pistons, two) and Rick Carlisle (Mavericks, three), each coach had been with their respective team at least four.
In the NBA, consistency wins championships.
The Lakers have won 16 titles with a combined total of five coaches. While there are definitely other factors that go into success and failure (talent, health, chemistry, etc.), teams that employ a revolving circle of head coaches tend to endure eras of mediocrity at best.
Yes, it’s much easier to employ coaches like Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich as they reel off championships, but even they’d say it took time to put their system in place and let it take hold with the organization. Both the Lakers and the Spurs have endured down seasons with Jackson and Popovich at the helm, but their patience allowed for rebounding years and, eventually, titles.
This is part of the reason LeBron James preached patience when he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His coach, David Blatt, is entering his first season in the NBA. James knows from his experience in Miami that titles are just thrown together with duct tape and glue. It takes years to develop the necessary chemistry.
Think about it this way: Scott’s system is much more old-school compared to that of his predecessor, Mike D’Antoni. In only a couple months, he’ll have to essentially start from scratch on both sides of the ball. If the Lakers are hoping to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, Scott will be playing catch up with the vast majority of coaches from last year’s teams in playoff contention. Only the Golden State Warriors fired their coach, Mark Jackson, and did so under much well-deserved scrutiny.
Here’s the most ironic part of the Lakers’ coaching situation; this year’s team is better-suited for D’Antoni’s system than either of the teams he had.Neither Pau Gasol nor Dwight Howard wanted to play in his up-and-down style of play. Now that both are gone and the Lakers don’t really have a starting center, this team would actually be fun to watch if D’Antoni was still around.
I’m not saying I completely disagree with the firing. D’Antoni should have been more flexible with the rosters he was given and could have been much more successful. Since moving to L.A., no Lakers coach has ever returned after losing more than 50 games. No coach has ever lost more than 50 games with the Lakers in L.A. But D’Antoni never really had a chance these two years.
In his first year, he joined the team five games into the season. His teams struggled with injuries that first year, and Dwight Howard bolted in free agency. No coach could have succeeded with last year’s subpar team that was also devastated by injuries. No, Lakers fans, not even the Zen Master.
So thanks to a laughable hiring process, Scott enters the season with playoff aspirations for a team that, in all reality, won’t make the postseason and a fanbase nearing previously unseen levels of frustration. The season could turn out miraculously; but even if the season is a disaster (more likely), such seasons will continue so long as the revolving cycle of coaches does.