EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Every one of their relationships started out promisingly enough, respectfully enough.
Del Harris, Phil Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Brown, Mike D'Antoni.
Kobe Bryant was welcoming to all of his coaches, receptive to what specific talents they had to offer—and then, well, eventually tired of them once they revealed just what they weren't able to do for him.
Bryant made it tough on them all, with Jackson having to come back a second time with the express purpose of proving to himself and Bryant that love and loyalty could be reached if they just dug deep enough.
It is already a new twist on the old Kobe-challenging-his-coach relationship, and it will be interesting to see if it proves more bulletproof than the others.
Although the final deal has not been formalized, Scott told KCBS' Jim Hill on Saturday night that he was set in the job as Lakers coach—and Scott's comments confirmed just how aligned he and Bryant are as of now.
Kobe and I have a great relationship, and we have been talking about this for almost the entire summer. I am excited to have the privilege of coaching a guy like that. This is a future Hall of Famer—we all know that—and I feel that he is going to be helping me as well, because we see the game in a very similar way.
We know that we have to get it done on the defensive end first, and he knows right now, in the last stage of his career, that he is going to have to do some things differently. I love the fact that people keep doubting that this man is going to come back and play great, because I know in my heart, and knowing him the way I do, that he loves those types of challenges. I am looking forward to having Kobe as a guy that I can turn to and say, 'Let's get the ball to this guy, and he can make things happen.'
What's different now is that Scott comes into the job already legitimately bonded to Bryant, and the relationship happens to be established with Scott as the big brother to someone who has never been too fond of being the little brother.
Yes, this is going to be sort of like what Brian Shaw would've been trying to do if he'd been chosen as Jackson's successor, but even that would've been a distinctly different dynamic. Bryant carried Shaw (and Derek Fisher) to NBA titles—hardly the same as Bryant carrying Scott's bags or delivering him doughnuts as part of rookie hazing duty back in 1996-97.
Scott, 53, was Bryant's mentor more than his teammate. The guy Bryant considers more his peer is actually Scott's son Thomas, who is a logical choice now to be hired as a Lakers assistant coach.
Will Kobe view his closeness to Byron as license to push and prod to get his way even more than he has with his previous coaches? Or does the true respect mean that Bryant won't drift off from his initial positive vibe the way he soon forgot how much Brown's work ethic impressed him or the genius he trusted in D'Antoni's offensive sets?
Scott will showcase Bryant's meticulously crafted mid- and low-post games and commit far more than D'Antoni to forging an accountable team defense that protects Bryant's limitations at that end. Scott isn't a yeller, but he has a quiet assertiveness that figures to motivate Bryant's teammates better than the long-winded, overly chirpy Brown or the soft touch of D'Antoni.
Scott's challenge is to keep it clear that he is certainly here to help Bryant but not get run over in doing so. That's a substantial challenge, as even in Jackson's final season of '10-11, Bryant's beloved Phil struggled to get Bryant to do many of the right team things.
The Lakers already have been very clear about their desire to empower Bryant and help him finish his career with a flourish. Not only did Bryant get that rich contract extension, but Scott will acquiesce to Bryant on offense far more than D'Antoni did. And the new roster assembled around Bryant might not challenge for a championship, but it will definitely defer to him, too.
Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis have the same agent as Bryant in Rob Pelinka, with Boozer tight enough with Bryant to refer to him by the one-syllable "Kob." Julius Randle is a lifelong Kobe fan. The team's top scorer last season, Nick Young, is unabashed in how he idolizes Bryant, and Xavier Henry even attended one of Bryant's basketball camps as a kid.
Scott is here to coach them all, and his return to the team with which he won three titles as a player serves as a building block for the fledgling Lakers to equate with the glorious Lakers in the eyes of the world.
Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the ones hazing Scott when he was a rookie. Scott paid it forward as a Lakers veteran when Bryant was a Lakers rookie.
Of course, there's a risk that the move could turn sour if the Lakers turned to Scott because they are grasping at reliving the past and fail to find it.
But the reality is that the two men who helped the Lakers win all of their titles in the Bryant era are in New York, with Derek Fisher coaching for Phil Jackson, who is in his new role as New York Knicks president.
That Scott could help Bryant re-emerge and Bryant could help Scott return stability to the Lakers would be a poetic win-win…at a pivotal time when the Lakers have been losing a lot more than basketball games.
Kevin Ding covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.
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