Is Byron Scott the Best or Just Last Choice LA Lakers Have for Head Coach?

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Is Byron Scott the Best or Just Last Choice LA Lakers Have for Head Coach?
Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Byron Scott has had numerous interviews with the Lakers.

We’ll never know if Byron Scott was the first choice of the Lakers to be their next head coach. It doesn’t matter.

He is the logical choice to be the Lakers coach. He is both Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now, and that should be OK with management and the team’s legion of fans.

And yet the Lakers continue to wait, justifying their indecisiveness by telling anyone who will listen that they want to fill out their once-barren roster before knowing what direction to take in a head coach.

Here's Mitch Kupchak attempting a bit of humor on Thursday over the situation, per ESPN Los Angeles:

Maybe we can wait until September. Obviously that's one of the next things that we're going to address, and with putting the roster together and getting through the draft and getting through this last period, a week or two, the next thing we're going to work on is the coach, and I think we're going to have somebody in the next couple weeks.

Well, the roster looks pretty full today. With the very recent additions of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis and then the re-signing of Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson, the Lakers only need to fill one or two more roster spots to be ready for training camp in September. Forward Ryan Kelly will most likely be one of those.

So, why the holdup on Scott? Is it because the Lakers are gun-shy about hiring the next coach after going 0-2 with the Mikes (Brown and D’Antoni)? They have vetted Scott more than most Supreme Court nominations.

 

Mr. Right

Scott is Mr. Right for several obvious, credible reasons. He’s been a winner, both as a player and coach.

In his first job as head coach of the New Jersey Nets, Scott helped guide the once comically poor franchise to two consecutive NBA Finals (2001-02 and 2002-03).

He also helped turn around a struggling franchise in New Orleans, methodically leading the Hornets from 18 wins in 2004-05 to 56 victories and a first-place finish in the Southwest Conference during 2007-08. For that, Scott was awarded NBA Coach of the Year honors.

He has coached some of the game’s best guards, including Jason Kidd (Nets), Chris Paul (Hornets) and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers). Scott took over in Cleveland just days before LeBron announced he was leaving for Miami, so it’s hard to blame him for the demise of that team during his three-year tenure (64-166 record).

As a player, Scott was one of the league’s most consistent guards for more than a decade. A No. 1 pick (fourth overall) of the San Diego Clippers, he came to the Lakers in a 1983 trade for point guard Norm Nixon, helping form the nucleus of the team’s Showtime era that would include Magic Johnson, James Worthy, A.C. Green and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Scott was a consistent scorer and passer and a superb defender. He left the Lakers in 1993 but returned in 1996 to finish out his career, playing mentor to an 18-year-old rookie named Kobe Bryant. The two formed a bond that grew into a friendship over the years.

Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

Bryant supports the hiring of Scott and said as much when asked by reporters, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:

He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league. So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We've had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I've always been a fan of his.

It’s obvious how much Scott wants this job, patiently answering questions about his limbo status while continuing to work as a Lakers in-studio analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet. He had this to say, per ESPN.com:

I know, in my dealings in talking with Mitch and Jim [Buss, vice president of player personnel], they want to get the roster together and then focus on the coaching. So, myself, or whoever else are the other candidates, that's what we're all waiting for and we're kind of looking at what's going on [in free agency] to see if that's all done and then see next week what they're going to do with the coaching vacancy.

 

Mr. Right Now

Of the five candidates the Lakers have had serious discussions with, only Scott and former coach Mike Dunleavy remain available. Lionel Hollins took the head job with the Brooklyn Nets, while Alvin Gentry and Kurt Rambis took associate head coaching positions with the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks, respectively.

Scott just makes the most sense for the Lakers right now. He comes with a proven track record as a player and coach, and he is a Laker through and through. He has done well when coaching young teams and, as he proved in New Jersey, can help lead a team deep into the playoffs when he has veteran stars.

For all of the interviews and time spent consulting with Kupchak and Buss, Scott could easily hit the ground running if given the head coaching job. He spent last year in the television studios, watching and analyzing what a young, inexperienced Lakers team did right and wrong while compiling the worst record (27-55) in franchise history.

He will bring enthusiasm, defensive skills and the ability to tutor such young talent as Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Ed Davis and even Jeremy Lin.

This Lakers job is not an easy one and comes equipped with numerous landmines. It needs a coach who is accustomed to winning but also understands the patience needed to build a perennial contender. Meanwhile, the fanbase, as described by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, is restless:

Lakers fans don't know what to make of this world in which they have been asked to accept mediocrity. They don't know that rebuilding usually takes time and a little unforeseen good fortune. They are spoiled rotten. Again, it's only a byproduct of the parenting. Over the years, the Lakers have given their fans every reason to grow comfortable with a certain standard of living.

Scott may or may not have been the first choice of the Lakers. Management actually waited to hear whom Carmelo Anthony and/or LeBron James might have wanted as coach had either signed a deal to play in Los Angeles.

To some, that would have been a deal-breaker. No one likes to feel like a second banana, especially a head coach in the NBA.

But Scott is a different sort of coach. He grew up in Los Angeles, close to the old home of the Lakers (The Forum) in Inglewood. He attended and excelled at Morningside High School. He was a star player on a star-driven, championship Lakers team. Unlike the last two LA coaches, he deeply understands the culture of the Lakers.

As Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News suggested to Lakers brass this week:

Do the right thing and hire the coach with the impressive resume, the respect of your best player and the goodwill of a frustrated fan base.

For the sake of the new-look Lakers, it makes sense to bring in Scott. Now.

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