All Signs Point to Byron Scott as Favorite for Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach

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All Signs Point to Byron Scott as Favorite for Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach
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Assigning a single name and face to the Los Angeles Lakers' search for a new head coach has proven impossible, but one name and face has made more appearances and makes more sense than most:

Byron Scott.

Only one candidate has warranted a second glance, and according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, it's him:

There's no end in sight to the Lakers' coach perusal just yet. It always figured to be a long process, and it continues to be shrouded in mystery and patience. Pinpointing where exactly this sideline going-over will take them has only become more difficult with time.

Other teams, from the Golden State Warriors to the New York Knicks to the Utah Jazz, have already filled their vacant positions. Surely the Lakers must have some idea of who they'll hire...right?

If they do, they're not telling. 

Or maybe they are.

 

The Shoe Fits

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Although general manager Mitch Kupchak hasn't named any names or wondered aloud if there's a collective bargaining agreement loophole that permits Kobe Bryant to coach as well, he set definitive parameters on the kind of head honcho the Lakers seek.

"I have to say we're leaning toward the type of the coach we would want (and) I would say there would be experience involved, certainly on some level, but not necessarily," Kupchak told USA Today's Sam Amick.

In other words, there's a reason the Lakers haven't taken an ad out on Craigslist that reads: "NBA team looking for new head coach. Experience not necessary. Everyone and their pet Sugar Glider are free to apply."

The Lakers aren't looking for a first-timer. They're rebuilding, but not conventionally. Their intention isn't to marginally improve year by year, draft by draft. They're looking for a quick turnaround and want someone who can guide what they hope will be a playoff team soon.

Scott has the requisite experience. Not only did he spend time with the Lakers as a player, but he's served as a head coach for parts of 13 seasons. 

Most recently, he helmed the Cleveland Cavaliers for three years. Before them he manned the then-New Orleans Hornets. And before them he led the then-New Jersey Nets for three-plus seasons.

BILL KOSTROUN/Associated Press
Scott's time in New Jersey speaks for itself.

His first gig is the one that will have Los Angeles gushing. The Nets made two NBA Finals appearances under his watch. During his time in control—which came amid the Jason Kidd glory days—he showed an ability to balance the egos of veterans and certain young guns. 

That experience is just what the Lakers need. They have an aging, strong-minded Bryant who wants to win now, but they also figure to sign and draft any number of youngsters who need time to grow. 

Speaking of Bryant, Kupchak also admitted—despite previously stating the contrary—that he would factor into Los Angeles' next hire.

"We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach really gets the most productivity out of (Bryant), whether it's scoring the ball or play-making or the threat that he may score," Kupchak told Amick. "That's probably of primary importance right now."

As Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding previously pointed out, Scott is one of the available seasoned coaching prospects who will "revere" Bryant and have an appreciation and understanding of what he can still do.

Pleasing the Black Mamba is something the Lakers have been trying to do for nearly two decades. In that time, the task hasn't gotten any easier.

All indications are Scott will at least make it less difficult.

 

Underwhelming Alternatives

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Simple question: If not Scott, who else?

Of everyone the Lakers have been linked to, very few appear to be legitimate candidates.

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski said the team sat down with Mike Dunvleavy. While he coached the Lakers to a Western Conference title in 1991, his most recent six-plus-year stint with the Los Angeles Clippers left much to be desired.

Current Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis is also up for consideration, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan. Bleacher Report's Howard Beck even called him a "favorite" for the job.

But Beck notes that Rambis could possibly join Derek Fisher's coaching staff in New York. He also doesn't qualify as experienced. Rambis has two-plus years of head coaching under his belt but a lifetime winning percentage of 27.9 to go along with it.

Mike D'Antoni disciple Alvin Gentry has generated buzz too, according to the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner. That he's associated with D'Antoni in any way only hurts his chances.

Gentry is credited with turning the Clippers into an offensive juggernaut this past season, and the work he did while coaching the Phoenix Suns is admirable, but the Lakers just bade farewell to his mentor. Why would they turn around and pay Magic Mike's protege?

They wouldn't.

Names like Lionel Hollins are interesting to consider, but his track record with management in Memphis continues to be held against him, as Basketball Insiders' Yannis Koutroupis discussed:

It’s tales of how he clashed with the new management and ownership in Memphis that have worked against Hollins more than any doubt about what he’s capable of on the court. Their relationship was testy at times and there may have been a lack of mutual respect between the two; Hollins also wasn’t embracing of their movement toward the expanded use of advanced statistics or the trading of Rudy Gay, but as abrasive as he can be, he does have a way of connecting with his players.

Poaching someone from the collegiate ranks has become unlikely as well. Big whigs like John Calipari, Fred Hoiberg and Kevin Ollie, among many others, appear tightly tethered to their current positions.

In lieu of other serious candidates surfacing, what are we supposed to be believe? That the Lakers have no idea what will come next? Or that Scott is their favorite?

You don't need me to answer that for you.

 

Signs are Signs

The longer the Lakers' coaching search carries on, the more possible it is that they go in a completely different direction—one that no one sees coming. 

Amick already alluded to this while examining Los Angeles' offseason plans. Sources told him the Lakers were deliberately slogging through their coaching expedition in order to keep their free-agency options open. Should LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony show a willingness to don purple and gold, the team would tailor the next hire to meet their needs. 

Plausible? Perhaps. But Ding puts a different, more logical spin on this:

What they would do, absolutely, is the same thing they've had in mind from the beginning of this coaching search: If no one dazzles them as a must-hire guy as soon as possible, they'll just keep waiting and evaluate the potential benefit of how well the next coach matches up with whoever is on the roster besides Bryant.

Right now, the Lakers don't have a good idea what their roster will look like next season. Three players—Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre—are under guaranteed contract. Their outlook is going to change drastically between the draft and free agency.

Which coaching candidate are the Lakers leaning toward?

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Once they have a better grasp on which direction they're going in—will they sign players who can help them win now, or bide time for 2015 free agency?—the Lakers can make an informed, personnel- and future-specific decision.

Until then, we can only roll with what we know. And we know that, despite their calculated patience, interest in Scott hasn't waned. That second interview says a lot.

More than the Lakers are saying themselves.

Not that they have to say anything.

Their extensive interest in Scott tells us all we need to know.

 

*Contract information via ShamSports.


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