At long last, the Los Angeles Lakers have their coach for the 2014-15 season.
The hiring process took a long time, even if the man who ended up with the job was widely considered the top candidate for quite a few weeks. But everything became official on Tuesday afternoon, when the organization officially introduced Byron Scott at his introductory press conference.
Everything opened with general manager Mitch Kupchak at the microphone, and he quickly made it clear that he was happy with the eventual agreement between the two parties.
Mitch Kupchak opens up: "Before I begin, I want to thank Byron for his patience."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 29, 2014
Mitch: "It was clear that Byron was our first choice."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 29, 2014
However, Kupchak didn't hold on to the mic for long, as there was a surprise appearance from a few of Scott's former teammates. In what was clearly an indication that the Lakers family was coming back together, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes all took turns at center stage.
Magic, Kareem and Wilkes all here to support Byron Scott. Big difference from last two hires. pic.twitter.com/gXCXLhYMaf— Daniel Buerge (@danielbuergeLA) July 29, 2014
First, Magic expressed his support:
Magic to Byron: "We’re excited we wish you could put on a uniform for you and help you! But, we’re here to support you throughout."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Magic Johnson hugs Byron Scott and says: "Showtime's back, baby"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 29, 2014
Magic "you chose the right guy" to Lakers on Scott— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 29, 2014
As Bleacher Report's Ethan Norof sharply noted, this was one of the few times in a long while that the legendary point guard has been supportive of the organization's moves, rather than disavowing them or just remaining silent:
Magic Johnson publicly praising #Lakers & LAL organization for the first time in…a long time.— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) July 29, 2014
Kareem and Wilkes also spoke up, both following in Magic's footsteps and expressing their own support:
Kareem: "It’s great the LA takes care of his own like this. Welcome home, B."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Jamaal Wilkes on Byron Scott: "A tie to the past but more importantly a bridge to the future."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Then it was Scott's turn to speak, and you could just feel how much passion he had for the Lakers, with whom he'd spent all but three seasons of his 14-year NBA career.
Byron: "The passion & love I have for this organization is second to none. The only thing I regret is that Dr. Buss isn't here."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 29, 2014
Scott: "The only thing I regret is Dr. Buss isn’t here today. He’s somebody that showed a lot of love + confidence in me back in the day.”— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 29, 2014
Byron Scott: "This has been a dream of mind for so long. It’s a dream come true."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
After expressing his regret that Dr. Jerry Buss couldn't be a part of the festivities, he quickly revealed his hopes for the organization.
They can be summed up in a single word: championships.
Byron Scott: "This organization is all about championships. Period."— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 29, 2014
Byron Scott: "I’m going to do everything in my power to make the Buss family proud and bring this team back to where we know it should be."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Off to the right of the makeshift stage, the Lakers had all of their old Larry O'Brien Trophies lined up in a window, from which Jeanie Buss overlooked the proceedings. The goal isn't to look upon those wistfully, but rather to add to that collection.
Byron Scott says some of the plans he’s talked about with Mitch & Jim talking about the future: "I could see it as clear as day."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Not only did Scott express confidence in the front office's plans, he also made it clear that he wanted to implement a defensive mentality for the Lake Show, something that hasn't really been present in the last few years:
Byron: "I think they put a roster together that will be very competitive. The thing I have to do is put together a defensive b-ball team."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 29, 2014
Byron Scott on his guys if they don’t play defense next season: “I’m going to have to find other guys that will.” #loveit— Lakerholicz.com (@Lakerholicz) July 29, 2014
Scott says this message was delivered by Magic early in his career: "We win championships by defending every single night."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 29, 2014
The offense is more up in the air:
Byron Scott on his system: "It'll be a mixture of everything I've done so far in New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland." Now curious— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) July 29, 2014
There's no telling quite yet what that means, though things should become clear early on. Chances are, some elements of the Princeton offense will be included, but that won't be the sole basis of Scott's schemes.
However, that shift in focus isn't the only thing that will change going forward.
There's been a negative feel around Los Angeles in recent years, and confidence needs to start filling up the Staples Center once more. Without confidence and pride, wins aren't going to pile up:
Byron Scott: "If you’re winning is contagious. If you’re losing it's contagious. Gotta change their mindset."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Byron: "It’s all about winning. When you lose games, you shouldn’t be in the locker room having a good time. It should hurt."— Lakerholicz.com (@Lakerholicz) July 29, 2014
Unsurprisingly, Kobe Bryant was also a topic of conversation.
His admiration for the Mamba was readily visible, as he informed those watching not only that he had a good relationship with the future Hall of Famer, but that he looked forward to talking basketball with one of the sport's great minds:
Byron on Kobe: "Great relationship. We get along extremely well. We text each other a lot. I'm looking forward to coaching Kobe."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 29, 2014
Byron Scott on Kobe: "I think we're on the same page on how we think about this game and how it should be played"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 29, 2014
Scott: "Kobe's an unbelievable basketball player that has an unbelievable mind about basketball. I see us (talking) a lot about the game."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 29, 2014
Another player who came up was Julius Randle, the team's top draft pick. There are high hopes for him within the organization, but playing time could be tough to come by on a roster that also features Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre.
Scott doesn't want to put a lot of pressure on Julius Randle right away, that he wants him to just play. Does think he has great potential.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 29, 2014
Nonetheless, Scott thinks Randle could earn the starting gig at some point, and "earn" is the operative word there:
Scott can't rule out starting Randle at some pt: "I think the sky’s the limit. To get him at seven was a steal. The kid was probably Top 3."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 29, 2014
How can Julius Randle move into the starting lineup? Out-play the other power forwards on the roster - paraphrasing Scott— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 29, 2014
After commenting on Jeremy Lin's feistiness, Scott was asked about the Los Angeles Clippers, and he quickly dispelled any notions that the city belonged to a team other than the Lakers:
Byron: "I don't think L.A. has gone to the Clippers yet ... This is still a Lakers town. Period."— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 29, 2014
Given the success of the two organizations, though, he's going to have to make some immediate strides with this roster in order to back up those words. How's he going to do so? By getting his team to play hard and defend:
Byron Scott’s one promise: “We’ll play hard every single night & we’ll come ready to defend."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 29, 2014
Defense and the Lakers family were the prevailing themes of the Scott presser, and it's hard to imagine his tenure getting off to a much better start.
Among the appearances of the L.A. legends, the quiet nodding from Magic after every answer, the insightful comments and the promise to change the recent organizational flaws, Scott absolutely nailed this introduction. He's not exactly lacking support at this point.
Now it's time to start figuring out how to make good on his promises.