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Why are the Lakers hiring Byron Scott as head coach?

Jul 26, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

The Lakers waited almost three full months to make a firm decision on the franchise’s next head coach, after Mike D’Antoni resigned back on April 30. And while the apparent choice to bring in Byron Scott was somewhat expected all along, it remains an underwhelming one, at best.

The reason for keeping the position open for so long had to do with the front office wanting to see how the roster came together, while it chased free agents in LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony that the team never truly had a shot at landing.

Once the new players were in place — a list that includes serviceable players in Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis, along with others like Nick Young, Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly who returned from last season’s lottery team — the offer went out to Scott.

The question, however, remains why.

The Lakers interviewed Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry and George Karl, all of whom have recent track records of success coaching at the NBA level, and would have been legitimate long-term solutions. Scott, meanwhile, has a career won-loss record of 416-521, and has had just one truly successful season in his last 10 as a head coach, while flaming out somewhat miserably in his last position, an ill-fated three-year stint with the post-LeBron James version of the Cavaliers.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles outlined the reasons from the Lakers side of things, but even when looking at things through the team’s eyes, they don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

It wasn’t just about his ties to the Showtime era, but that surely helped. It wasn’t just that he was around the team all last season as an analyst for the Lakers’ television station, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and had an intimate knowledge of what went down, but that helped too.

The Lakers franchise also wanted to establish a clear defensive identity after being atrocious on that end of the court last season, and Scott’s credentials include a strong defensive-minded reputation.

Wait, what’s that about defense, now?

From John Schuhmann of NBA.com:

The Cavs ranked in the bottom five in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) in each of Scott’s three seasons. That’s not just bad. It’s unprecedented.

Before Scott, the last coach to lead his team to the bottom five in defensive efficiency in three straight seasons was Mike Dunleavy, who did it with Milwaukee from 1993-94 to 1995-96, a streak that started when the league had only 27 teams. So Scott is the only coach to do it in a 30-team league. …

You could look at those Cleveland rosters (2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13) and note their youth and lack of talent. Indeed, Scott didn’t have much to work with. But bottom five for three straight years speaks for itself. Scott had a No. 1 defense in New Jersey and top 10 defenses twice with the Hornets, but he wasn’t able to coach the young Cavs up. Under Mike Brown last season, Cleveland jumped from 27th to 17th in defensive efficiency.

The evidence shows, at least defensively, that Mike Brown did a better job coaching than Scott — think about that for a second, Lakers fans, and then perhaps get a friend or two to restrain you from leaping off of the upper level of Staples Center.

So, fine, the Lakers aren’t all that tuned in to Scott’s ability to coach on the defensive end. The other reason he’s getting the job, however — and it’s a big one — is making sure that Kobe Bryant is sufficiently placated during his last couple of seasons in Los Angeles.

But really, the Scott hire comes down to one man: Kobe Bryant. L.A. invested close to $50 million in Bryant over the next two seasons when he’ll be 36 and a 19-year veteran and 37 and a 20-year veteran. …

Whichever coach the Lakers decided on would have to mesh well personalitywise with Bryant first and foremost and, beyond that, play a system that would help Bryant continue to be productive even as Father Time is taking his toll. …

The Lakers have always operated with championships on the mind, but with a title pretty much out of the picture in the short term, they simply want to get back to having their team and everything that surrounds it be an accurate reflection of all the winning the franchise has already accomplished.

Again, this is the Lakers thinking — realizing that winning anything of importance next season is completely out of the question, the team decided to make sure Bryant is happy instead of adequately planning for a not-too-distant future when he’s gone from the team forever.

Hiring retreads, especially those without a recent history of succeeding in their profession, is a practice more and more teams have gone away from, for reasons that should be obvious. The Celtics hired Brad Stevens, a young and successful coach at the college level, and gave him a relatively unheard of six-year deal to give him time to put a winning culture in place. The Suns hired a former player in Jeff Hornacek, who immediately overachieved in his first season and had a relatively undermanned Phoenix team within one game of the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. And the Cavaliers are perhaps the best example of a team willing to take a calculated risk with a new head coach, hiring David Blatt following his successful run coaching overseas, and doing so even with the looming possibility of LeBron James returning to Cleveland for what will be Blatt’s first NBA season.

Teams aren’t gambling wildly with these types of hires. Instead, they’re taking well-educated guesses about which up-and-coming coach might have the best chance of setting up a franchise for years of continued prosperity.

Now, maybe Scott will exceed expectations, and if he doesn’t, maybe he’ll be gone at the same time Bryant is, and a new coach will be brought in to guide the team into its next era. But all this hire does is reflect the Lakers glorious past, while doing nothing to set them up for success in the immediate future.

  1. remyje - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    stick a fork in ‘em

    • apkyletexas - Jul 26, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Boogie Cousins laughs at the Lakers. Think about that for a moment…

  2. ranoversquarells - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    He’s just being hired to be a fired when the roster gets better

    • adoombray - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      It’s kinda brilliant too in that respect. once they actually try to compete again (you know, when Kobe is done chasing the scoring title) they can have a crap season and then use him as a scapegoat. This is what I loved about D’antoni quitting. He knew he was just there to keep the seat warm for the next incarnation of the team and wasn’t gonna sit around to be the punching bag for a bunch of salary floor signings and an aging veteran nobody wants to play with

  3. mrsingh24 - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    They should have hired Lionel Hollins or George Karl however Jimmy Boy Buss wont relinquish his power over player personnel.

  4. imakcds - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    In their current state, B Scott is just fine.
    WHEN they return to championship levels, Byron becomes a questionable choice.

  5. LIBERAL JUSTICE - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    How the mighty have fallen..

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 27, 2014 at 2:12 AM

      The Heat? This is a Laker article bud.

  6. chiadam - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Surprise, surprise. They hired a former Laker. That’s on page one of the Laker manual.

  7. Fantasy Football Consultant - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Dumb article

    • bong815 - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      Dumb, maybe, but it is spot on.

  8. fiyeaglesfiy - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Would’ve preferred a young up and coming coach a la Gregg Marshall, like the celtics did, rather than a guy who’s had a career losing record albeit with some pretty terrible rosters.

    • bong815 - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      Why discourage an up and comer by giving him a lousy team. They just want a baby-sitter until Kobe leaves.

  9. harshedmellow - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    The thing about the Lakers sucking for the foreseeable future is, that it’s AWESOME, wonderful, well-deserved, and highly appreciated by anyone not living in that festering sump of a city.

    #JustSayin’

    • paleihe - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      Direct your energy to positivity instead of negativity, you’ll lead a healthier, happier life.

      • bong815 - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        No, serial haters aren’t interested in leading a healthier, happier life.

  10. R. Edmond - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    No mention of Byron Scott’s two NBA Finals appearances as a coach.

    • bong815 - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      True, but his win percentage is still 44%.

      • antistratfordian - Jul 26, 2014 at 5:42 PM

        His playoff win percentage is 58%.

  11. kamauthabiti - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    why are you bashing Scott already-cause you don’t like Kobe. Scott is a good couch who took a big chance with the Cleveland appointment, he never should.

    • bong815 - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Scott’s record is much worse than Mike Brown’s. Does that give you a warm fuzzy?

  12. tv63 - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    You’ve got to be kidding on the defense argument. Cav players begged to have defense practices towards the end of his tenure local papers reported.. It feel on deaf ears. You can only blame the team for so much. He sheds much responsibility to coach defense in those 3 years. As a Cav fan, I’m truly feel sorry for those players on what they are about to experience with this guy. You will see it soon too. Stoic look, crossed arms, no interaction with players @ game time, no time outs.

  13. 00maltliquor - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    I don’t care what nonaya think, if Kobe can play a minimum 67 games, Lakers are getting at least the 8th seed. BOOK IT.

    • zoomy123 - Jul 26, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      Kobe could play 48 minutes for 82 games and the Lakers wouldn’t get past 10. 7 out of the 8 playoff spots are already locked up: SAN, OKC, LAC, POR, HOU, DAL, and GSW. That means MEM and PHO are going to be fighting for 8 and 9.

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        Nothing in basketball is a lock. Too many variables. MEM and PHX don’t scare me. The Lakers are not as bad of a team as people think, we just need people to stay healthy. We’ve been snakebit the last two years. We’ve been absolutely paralyzed by injury. Last years Heat team would have a hard time staying in playoff position if they had as much injuries as us, anyone would. But go ahead with your hatred of all things Lakers, I’m sure you, like many, many others on here have been waiting your whole life to see a Laker downfall so you can finally gloat. Remember last year before the season even started NO ONE thought the Suns would be as good as they were. Same with the Bobcats. We’re one of those under the radar teams too, I feel.

        It’s all about perception too. We don’t have bad players. I bet you ANYTHING if, let’s say the Mavs picked up the players we picked up everyone would be saying how nice of a job they did to bolster the depth on the team.

        Now let’s look at it like this, let’s say the Lakers signed Jameer, Aminu, Greg Smith etc., y’all would be CLOWNING!!! But so far the consensus is that the Mavs have had so far (other then the Cavs) the best off-season.

        Facts.

      • zoomy123 - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:39 PM

        First, I’m not a “Lakers hater.”

        Second, barring something catastrophic like injury, the 7 teams I mentioned are a lock for the playoffs.

        Third, whether or not MEM or PHO scare you is irrelevant. Memphis is a tried and tested team with a tough core. Nobody can objectively look at the Lakers then look at the Grizzlies and say the Lakers are a better team.

        Facts.

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        Zoomy, I understand it’s a longshot, I’m not out of my mind. But it could happen. A lot of things would have to go right, starting with health and good team defense, but an 8th or 7th seed is not out of the question. So as long as Kobe’s right, or at least 80%+ for 67 games +/-. We are not that bad. We got some good useful players.

    • divan22 - Jul 26, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Kobe IN HIS PRIME couldn’t carry a bad Lakers team (post-Shaq, pre-Pau) higher than the 7th seed and a 1st round exit. Remember when he demanded a trade after a few years of that?

      But now I’m supposed to believe that he can carry them into the playoffs in his mid-30s after 2 straight major injuries? Mkay. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

    • bkbell3 - Jul 27, 2014 at 1:17 AM

      00, That’s a lot of moon walking backwards from your first statement of ” at least the 8th seed” and “BOOK IT” lol

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 27, 2014 at 2:05 AM

        Lol! Read again. Kobe has to play a minimum of 67 games at 80%+

        So technically it is a longshot, I mean A LOT has to go right, BUT if he DOES accomplish those two criteria, then BOOK IT!

        What else should I clarify for you?

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 27, 2014 at 2:10 AM

        LOL @ the “moonwalking backwards” comment though! The mental visual was hilarious

  14. 00maltliquor - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    I didn’t say we were gonna win the championship fool, all we got to do is get in. You can’t ever count Kobe Bryant out. So we will see sir. We will see.

    • divan22 - Jul 26, 2014 at 7:05 PM

      Hahaha and I suppose if Pau had stayed with LA you’d be talking about a potential Western Conference Finals trip? Talk about delusional.

      Zero chance at the playoffs. Young Kobe could MAYBE get this team to the 8th seed. Old Kobe can’t.

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 26, 2014 at 7:07 PM

        You’re delusional

  15. polarbearsquares - Jul 26, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    So PBT complains incessantly why haven’t the Lakers hired Byron Scott yet. Then they do and they complain he’s not the right person for the job? Typical.

    Is this the same PBT that trumpeted D’Antoni and how “you can win with his system” ignoring his defensive liabilities saying the Lakers shouldn’t have hired Scott because his team in Cleveland had bad defensive ratings? Is that right?

    This is comical, man. Can’t win for losing with you guys, I guess.

  16. jimsjam33 - Jul 26, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    I’ll be rooting for Byron Scott and the Lakers even though I’m a Clipper fan . Scott deserves everybody from LA’s support after all the good years he gave us as a member of the ” Showtime Lakers . “

    • jimeejohnson - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:36 PM

      You make Lakers fans look arrogant. Good for you for not being a hater.

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 27, 2014 at 2:19 AM

        How does that make Laker fans look arrogant?

  17. Gary - Jul 26, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    He’s a definite improvement, but also not an upgrade.

    • pdub923 - Jul 27, 2014 at 1:44 AM

      Lol. What?

  18. csbanter - Jul 26, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    Can Scott actually coach a few games in LA before people say he is this or that ?

  19. scorp16 - Jul 26, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    LA is just keeping the seat warm until the announce the new head coach in 2016. Coach Maverick Carter

  20. chargerdillon - Jul 26, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    It amazes me some of you take this seriously. If the Lakers had Phil Jackson as their coach right now would it even matter? Nope

    The only thing this Lakers roster is capable of doing is fighting for an 8th seed in the West.

    They are one of the worst teams in the league handicapped by a broken down veteran who’s not likely to last half the season.

    If you’re a Laker fan and you only care to watch the Lakers, you might as well not watch basketball

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 27, 2014 at 2:25 AM

      Re-up on your meds, bruh.

      And if I can/could speak for Kobe; “So that’s how you feel? That’s the thanks I get for giving you 7 Finals trips and 5 rings when other bball fans are PRAYING for their 1st, or 1st in the last 3+ decades???”

  21. wisbadgfan - Jul 26, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Byron Scott is a decent choice for the Lakers.

    Did they really need to interview him 3 times? He was a former player for years, former head coach for several years, and has been on broadcasting teams on Laker telecasts for awhile,

    With that body of work with and around the franchise, unless they thought a miraculous candidate was going to become available, why did it take 3 interviews?

  22. skins26portis - Jul 27, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    Spot on Byron was hired because Kobe gave the front office the okay to hire Scott. Another season of comical basketball by the purple and gold. Go Clippers

    • musician0785 - Jul 29, 2014 at 6:41 PM

      If anyone knows about comical sports, its a clippers/redskins fan

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